Beijing's road warriors

By Pauline D. Loh ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-11-19 07:50:27

The other day, as we were entering the slip road off the Third Ring Road, a white sedan behind us actually slowed and gave way. We were so surprised that the spouse made me wind down my window and gratefully salute our thanks.

It was a rare act that made our day because the norm in Beijing is that the car behind would speed up and close the gap if you so much as indicate you wanted to change lanes.

Horns would blare and tires screech as vehicles maneuver into battle formation, determined not to give away an inch. Driving in the Capital City is indeed like war, and there are more guerilla tactics on the tar here than anywhere else I have seen.

That comes from a lady driver who has more than held her own in a little red Mustang against mile-long road trains along the Pacific Highway. Normally, they just honk their derision because I have my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the passenger seat, silky ears flapping furiously.

But Beijing defeats me, and I fear its traffic.

Our family car is a made-in-China SUV, but without the requisite reinforced steel kangaroo bars in front and behind for self-defense, I refuse to get behind the wheel. I leave the driving to my husband, a hutong scholar less inclined to murder his fellow citizens when they show bad manners on the road.

Beijing drivers are on a steep learning curve, he says. The learned spouse has a theory that sends me into exasperated chuckles every time - they still cannot get over the fact that they now move on four wheels instead of two.

It is that bicycle mentality long cultivated, never forgotten. Come to think of it, it does explain much of what happens on the road.

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