Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Getting around Shanghai is very easy in theory. Whether you arrive in one piece is completely up to the whim of whatever power you believe to be at work in the universe. Cabs are plentiful, the subway is fast and convenient. Stepping outside your front door means you take your life in your hands every single time.

Obviously you take your life into you hands every day anyway. In Shanghai though the simple act of crossing the street becomes the adventure of a lifetime. Let me take a bit of time to describe the overriding philosophy of life on Shanghai streets. The bigger object wins. Yep, from the lowly fleshy pedestrian right up to the mighty and extremely solid bus you must remember that the strong survive.

Now, Shanghai seems to be a little more under control than Taiwan, but not by much. Traffic signals here are generally suggestions. Lanes melt into each other despite lines to the contrary. The pedestrian has few friends here. For example; in the U.S. of A. we are shocked, nay flabbergasted that a car or other moving vehicle would cross into the sacred path of a person crossing the street. If you have the signal, you stand tall and proud knowing that anyone who mows you down will owe you a vast sum of money. Not so in Shanghai. Keep your head on a swivel because the only things stopping cars are actual bodies they have to remove from their fenders.

A walk signal just means you have the possibility of crossing with the light. Cars continue to stream forward into the cross walk trying to make that last centimeter of space before the human funnel blocks them out. Granted that isn't necessarily going to stop them either. People blow through red lights all the time. Turning left on red isn't even cause for pause. Cars are a little better behaved but that just leaves you open for the silent killer...the motor scooter.

You wouldn't think a moped dangerous would you? You would be wrong... The sidewalks in Shanghai, no matter how small or crowded, are also thoroughfares for hand carts, bicycles, mopeds, and full size motor scooters. Especially threatening when you consider that these scooters kill their motors and roll up behind you with no sound at all. A lot of times you will receive the courtesy beep of a horn, but those times are a welcome change from the norm.

So the lesson of all this is to know your surroundings. Pay attention because I can guarantee you that no else is...