First time on this blog? Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn is probably a good place to start.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Oh, what the hey, one last traffic graphic...

ADDENDUM, SEPT. 24, 2007: Thanks to everyone who has commented, I now know that this phenomenon is known as The Chinese Dragon, The Dragon, or The Car Dragon and is practiced in Taiwan (and probably other places as well.) I LOVE that this has a name. It just goes to prove, as poster gr82cu observed, that if everyone plays by the same rules, even things that look strange or even dangerous to foreign eyes are perfectly safe and logical.

Even knowing that people don't get killed doing this (as I presumed when I first saw The Car Dragon), I hope you enjoy the read!

ORIGINAL POST: OK, one last traffic post for old time’s sake. On one of my last days in Beijing, I saw this one which, as the great Dave Barry would say, I SWEAR I am not making up. I call it:

Synchronized Insanity


Another left turn situation at a stoplight. Two lanes of traffic in each direction pass under a bridge. There are barriers separating opposing traffic, except under the bridge itself. Frontage roads run alongside the elevated highway, and the cars in column [A] want to get on this service road.

Step 1:

The light turns green – yay! Column [A] pulls forward, the lead car nosing a bit into the northbound lanes, sniffing for an opening. And they’re in luck – car [C] (not yet in the frame) has failed to adequately tailgate car [B], a near-mortal sin in the world of Beijing traffic.

Step 2:

The danse macabre begins. The lead car, [A1], lurches in front of [C], who slams on his brakes, stopping the left northbound lane.

Step 3:

Like roller Rockettes, every car in the column that is past the inter-lane barrier, from [A2] to [A6], simultaneously takes a sharp left, filling the dead space behind [B] as he passes. Meanwhile, [A1] has successfully blocked [D], stopping all northbound traffic and freeing him to complete the left turn.

Step 4:

With the precision of a drill team, [A2] to [A6] now turn right. [A7] follows as he passes the barrier – southbound cars are now starting their left turn a full 200 feet before the road they want to end up on.

Step 5:

But revenge is sweet. Since column [A] is now heading SOUTH in the far-right NORTHBOUND lane, [C] now has a clear shot up the left northbound lane, and his own band of minions eager to cut someone off. Column [C] accelerates, with opposing traffic whizzing by on both sides. And an impure element has infiltrated column [A]…

Step 6:

It’s car [E], who – and this is absolutely insane – actually wants to continue south. In the southbound lanes. Can you imagine? Anyway, this frees column [C] to exploit the opening and prevent any additional cars from column [A] from turning at the barrier.

Step 7:

The last cars from the lead [A] element are reaching the frontage road, but now have to drive quickly and carefully to avoid [D], who has crept forward in a fit of pique, a sort of slow-motion game of chicken. The following members of [A] follow [E] – the rule among Beijing drivers is ALWAYS do ANYTHING that gets you as close as possible to your final destination, even if it means –heaven forbid – staying in your own lane and not running anyone over.

Return to Step 1:

Lather, rinse, repeat.


  • As of this writing, since I started tracking stats on this site on June 6, there have been 4,056 visitors, who have accounted for 6,836 visits – a small group of regulars, and a lot of one-time visitors.
  • By far, the most popular single post has been Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn, with 3,320 views. 2,194 of those visits have come since August 26th, when the post was picked up by some China-centric blogs. Since then, it spread to many other blogs – as a web guy by profession, kinda cool to see.
  • The post has been translated into Cantonese, meaning I am now published in at least two languages around the world! (Thanks, 暗黑的卡夫卡!)
  • According to www.business-opportunities.biz, a site that has a cool feature that computes the value of web sites by simply entering the URL, my blog is worth $21,452.52. Whoever wants to give me that money, please write – I need to buy a new furnace and windows for the house.
  • My blog comes up #15 in a Google search for ‘Beijing traffic.’ In a search for ‘chubble,’ I’m number three.

So long for now! It’s been fun!