An American in Chengdu

Traffic 2 | April 4, 2010

One-way streets are proliferating in Chengdu these days, and for the past few weeks I’ve been watching one of the streets between home and work change from two-way to one-way. The old street had one car lane and one bike lane going each way. The first step was to replace the lane lines so that the new street had three car lanes and one bike lane going one way, and one bike lane going the other way. I was happy that bikes were to be officially allowed to go both ways, although given the popularity of the bike lane for such activities as parking and walking, I knew I’d need to use the oncoming car lane frequently. However, once the lines were in place cars continued driving both ways as usual.

A few days later, the powers that be installed a traffic light at a 3-way intersection that was previously controlled only by a stop sign. The light was far more successful than the lines in garnering drivers’ attention; even the cars going the wrong way stopped, though their drivers couldn’t see the signal. They stopped when the walk signal was red. Once the signal turned green, they kept driving the wrong way.

As a few more days passed, the traffic going the right way became heavier than that in the reverse direction. But the city buses were still going the wrong way in what seemed an official enough acknowledgment of the street’s continuing two-way status.

Finally, near the end of last week, the city put up temporary do-not-enter signs and posted traffic directors at intersections to discourage would-be wrong-way drivers. The bus stops on the wrong side had signs announcing new routes. It was the end of an era.

Or maybe not quite. As I biked home on Friday an ambulance passed me going the wrong way. It was traveling away from the hospital and its lights weren’t on. It passed a couple of crashed motorcycles and their drivers, who looked to have sideswiped each other while going the wrong way (fortunately, they didn’t look seriously hurt).


1 Comment »

  1. Not yet mentinoned is that the traffic lights theselfs are interresting in that a single led array dispays all three colours, so red, yellow and green are all in one position, so con all be placed in the optimal viewing position. I have seen a video of them and noticed a whie line around the edge of the housing and wonder, why not use a red illumintaed backplate?

    Comment by Myrtonos — May 17, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

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    About me

    I've come to Sichuan in search of adventure, fluency in Chinese, and awesome vegetarian food. I have to concede that the baby pandas are very cute.
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