While many expatriates in China spend their time complaining about the standard of driving on the roads, I’m pretty much immune to it. The Chinese may drive badly, but most of the time they drive so darned slowly that it’s not putting anyone’s life at risk. So compared to Saudi, where you’d witness at least one accident an hour on the roads (of varying severity) and one fatal crash a week, there’s nothing to moan about at all.
Spend a week in the dodgems of Egypt’s traffic and you’ll not even notice the driving in China. Given that Shenzhen’s a big city, traffic laws here have been tightened continuously since my arrival in the country to ensure a safer experience for motorists and pedestrians alike.
However, having said that, there’s one experience that’s common to most of the Far East that I never came across in the Gulf. And that’s the mad cyclist, here in Shenzhen motorbikes are illegal – I’m told this is due to the number of motorized bag snatchers that were gadding about at one point. But electric bikes are not, and while they may not have the same “oomph” as a motorbike, they are also silent.
If like me, one of your daily pleasures involves wandering about with your headphones on (if I don’t get my daily music fix, I get cranky) this is not good news. While most cyclists have little bells attached to their bikes (and often carry insane cargo – like 8 water dispenser bottles full of water, which makes them noisy as hell) and can thus get your attention to shift out of the way, the electric bike users mostly don’t.
So what? I can almost hear you thinking; surely you look both ways when crossing the road? I do, but that’s hardly the point – here in China if it has two wheels you can ride it anywhere, and that includes like a maniac down pedestrian areas such as pavements, squares, and shopping malls if you can get away with it. This means that your sudden demise may be bearing down on you, anywhere, anytime. Heck, once I got in the lift in my building and was almost knocked over by a lunatic riding his bike into the lift to take it up to his apartment.
It appears that in the Far East and here in Shenzhen, Death has dumped his pale horse in exchange for a more modern approach.