Never mind the signals; just keep driving

I’m invited to a party.

At around six o’clock, the intersection where 文翁路 hits the river can be a dire confusion of traffic. If motorists are one species of stupidity in China, the cyclists and electric-bike jockeys are another. The guiding principle of the latter pair is that it doesn’t matter what the signals are doing – red, orange, whatever –; if the way is clear, then they go. The particular custom remains disconcerting for me because it’s exacerbated when a minor road crosses a more major one. As I’m heading across the intersection of 文翁路 and 文庙前街, I have to contend with a stream of cyclists and e-b jockeys who, being innately inattentive, need to be watched closely. The latter often speed along with, it seems, little regard for anyone else.

Although motorists are more constrained by traffic lights, their principle at meeting these impediments to the advance of the aspiring Chinese middle class, corrupt officials and arrogant members of the armed forces is that if the car ahead was already in the intersection when the lights changed to red, it’s all right for them to follow. The result is a tailback which then impedes cars approaching from their flanks. Elsewhere (i.e., countries where motorists show a reasonable degree of civilised behaviour), you might expect the traffic trying to cross to wait until the tailback has wormed its way to safety, but, of course, that never happens. When the light is green, it’s time to go; never mind anyone else.

As I said, the traffic at this particular intersection can be dire around six o’clock. Tonight, it was dire++. Something was blocking traffic heading south so that when the lights turned green as I headed east to High Fly Pizza, there was no way for the traffic to cross, although it didn’t stop it trying. There were so many cyclists that the lights had changed back to red before most of us were able to cross by squeezing through the gaps. Because I was too far into the intersection myself to change my mind, I kept going, keeping a very wary eye out for any idiot motorists approaching from the right.

When I did get to High Fly, I, being a regular customer, was immediately invited to attend the establishment’s ninth birthday party next month. I’m informed that there will be cake.

[09.11.13. Since then, High Fly has been ejected from its former premises because the building was refurbished, and has been relegated to the one restaurant near the Shangri La in Chengdu.]


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