With the rapidly increasing number of vehicles on Beijing’s roads controlling traffic has become a real challenge. Even building new roads and extending the subway system still can’t cope with the rapidly growing number of road-users. When you travel to Beijing you will certainly see a difference to many other big cities. The best way to experience it is probably to try out as many ways of transportation as possible on your Beijing Tours. And taking a taxi can really be exciting!

Within the last years Beijing Municipal Government has made some adjustments in an effort to reduce traffic jams and increase the average speed on the road. Introduced as a temporary measure in July 2008 for the Olympic Games all private cars were banned for one out of the five weekdays according to the last digit of their number plates to improve the air quality and the traffic situation. After positive results of these measures this system has been extended and is still in effect today.

 

When you find your way around in Beijing’s traffic it might seem that there are a lot fewer rules and people just go whenever they want. But that’s not quite true. In general, more important than the rules and traffic signs are the things going on around you. There is not just a lot of traffic; there are also all kinds of vehicles… and lots of pedestrians. There are cars, many of them taxis, buses, bikes, rickshaws, motorcycles and in rare cases even carriages and everybody is determined to get to their destination as quickly as possible.

 

So here is some general advice for people new to Beijing:

1. If you want to get around the city center during rush hour times, between 7 and 9 am and again from around 5 to 7 pm taking the subway is usually the better choice compared to taking a taxi. In many places even walking can be faster than going by car. There are times when traffic at the Second Ring Road just doesn’t move at all. The subway is also very crowded but it still won’t get caught in traffic jams and many subway lines go nearly every minute during rush hour.

2. Keep your eyes open and look into every direction before you cross a road. Even if the pedestrian traffic light is green other vehicles usually go first. They are not only stronger but also faster, so watch out for bikes, motorcycles and cars in the turning lanes!

3. Just like green doesn’t mean you get to go first, red doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wait. If there is no traffic or a big gap between the cars, why should you waste your time waiting? Just walk depending on the situation and not so much depending on the color of the traffic lights.

4. On roads with several lanes it’s not unusual for people to walk to the middle of the road when there is a gap in the oncoming traffic and then wait in between the lanes with cars all around for an opportunity to cross to the other side.

5. Honking is used more as a warning, or to get people’s attention, as a ‘watch out, here I come’, and usually not meant in an offensive way or as a reaction to bad driving of another road user. And in Beijing you’ll hear a lot of honking!

6. If you’re not sure how to behave, you can learn all the tricks from the locals. Just observe, follow the others and learn.

The way traffic works is probably not better or worse than in other places, just different and a lot more flexible. Not all bigger Chinese cities have a subway system, so that’s a big advantage of Beijing’s public transportation. You’ll see some differences between Chinese cities if you take the opportunity to go on China Tours. In any case, some patience helps but Chinese traffic is not a problem but an experience!

Jack Li

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