The official Chinese highway code has strict rules. It’s too bad no one obeys themby Mark Kitto / May 25, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
There’s a truck chassis full of oranges in the middle of the roundabout on the main road in the valley. The truck crashed, and the impact took its wheels clean off. Last week there was another crash, when a truck piled into the sign that said “Slow Down.” That one didn’t make it all the way on to the centre of the island and was obstructing the traffic, so was moved off straight away. The first one is still there.
Roundabouts don’t work very well in China. Drivers already on them give way to drivers approaching. This inversion of the norm happens, I assume, because the approaching traffic is moving faster and is therefore more intimidating. Intimidation is a decisive factor in the unofficial Chinese highway code. If you are bigger and faster, you tend to have the right of way, though not always. If you can get there first then Mr Bigger and Faster has to stop—providing he has seen you. And sometimes he doesn’t see you, or the roundabout.
There is an official highway code in China, too. It has strict rules, which nobody obeys. That’s why the traffic lights in town have to be supervised by two or three policemen during rush hour, and roundabouts don’t work the way they should.