Beijing, Cars, Pedestrians – A Bad Mix

When we were living in Beijing, some years ago, we noticed as we walked around in Beijing  that many of the streets, especially major ones have large white metal fences running down the middle of the road.

The purpose of these fences is simple, if slightly macabre, heavy traffic is something new to the Beijingers, until relatively recently there were very few cars on the roads here, mostly government limos I gather, and millions of bicycles. This has now changed with the advent of money in people’s pockets, and a wild surge of consumerism that has taken Beijing, and most major cities in China by storm, and currently in Beijing 1000 new cars are being registered every day!!!!!!


This produced a serious problem, not merely the endless traffic jams for which Beijing is justly infamous, but also a lot of dead people. People had the habit of simply wandering across the road where ever they happened to be, and they did this without looking, as they were simply not conditioned to the existence of lots of cars being driven by drivers with almost no driving experience, thus lots of people were hit by cars whilst wandering blithely across the roads.

Hence the fences, which at least force people to cross the roads at traffic lights. This has apparently reduced the number of accidents noticeably, but not entirely, as people still wander into the roads at the crossings without looking, and car drivers also drive with a happy disregard for pedestrians.

When we arrived in Beijing I quickly discovered that the Beijingers were possibly the worst drivers in the world, but I am happy to say that this is changing quite rapidly, and whilst they are still amazingly unaware of what is happening around them (wing mirrors and rear-view mirrors seem to be merely for decoration), they are slowly evolving into passable drivers… long way to go still though before they achieve the level of, say, Turkish drivers. But they are getting there!


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