Thursday, 1 May 2008

Heroic Litter Collection

China's road manners haven't changed much; the roads here in Guangdong are much improved with the previously isolated stretches of highway now linked up. The animals, bicycles and farm tractors are elsewhere and this alone accounts for most of the improvement but they can still clog a 4 lane highway with 3 vehicles with their lane discipline. In England, the outer lane is lane-#1, then lane-#2 towards the centre. The Chinese highways, driving on the right but same principle, are signed as:

Lane-#1: Slow (Max 80kmph, Min 60kmph)
Lane-#2: Fast (Max 100/110, Min 80)
Lane-#3: Car lane (100/110, 80)

So you get cars in lane-#3 doing 80, trucks in lane-#2 doing 100, and cars undertaking both of these in lane-#1 doing 120. And that's without such wild cards as people who can't drive, Public Safety (police) cars doing whatever they want, people on the phone, undertaking on the hard shoulder and trucks on the hard shoulder reversing to get back to a missed exit.

England has a single speed limit (not even a weather dependent one which I think is an excellent idea) and a Keep Left rule. It does't work as people still hog lanes but at least it's simple. Hong Kong has inherited the English rules but this Chinese system is over-engineered and even less effective.

On a plus point, while paying road tolls are little fun, the toll booth ladies return change and ticket then wave the vehicle away with a firm hand/arm gesture, almost Japanese like. It's an uncommon courtesy, having little practical benefit, but further evidence of China's high aspirations filtering down to everyday work and behavior.

Incredibly, while all this freestyle driving is going on, there are guys picking up litter on the hard shoulder using a hi-vis jacket as protection; such selfless heroism is rare and in time of conflict one could form these men into a fearless fighting force, the only rival to disgruntled US postal workers.