Expats in Shanghai struggle with gridlocks and dodgy drivers

Published:  6 Apr at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, China
Although Beijing still tops the list as China’s most user-unfriendly city as regards pollution, traffic accidents and daily gridlocks, Shanghai is catching up fast.

Now in third place in China’s most congested metropolis list, Shanghai is also placed 24th of the world’s 146 most gridlocked cities. The rapid rise of the Chinese middle classes and their insatiable lust for the latest, coolest cars is to blame, with three million households in the city owning at least one vehicle and often two or more.

Driving safely and with consideration for other road users comes a long way down the to-do list of the average Chinese motorist. As a result, over 1,000 traffic accidents and around 900 road deaths occurred in 2014, with the main causes listed as ignoring traffic lights and totally disregarding pedestrians.

A citywide three-month governmental crackdown on anti-social behavior by motorists was brought in recently, with over 40,000 cases of red-light running, pedestrian jay-walking and illegal parking dealt with by local police. So far, the continuing campaign is having some effect, but it’s feared that drivers will simply go back to their bad habits once the police presence is removed.

Local reporters recently hit the streets, seeking views and opinions from Shanghai’s expat community. One recently arrived female expat from Chicago was horrified at the rush hour gridlocks and scared stiff to cross the street even when pedestrian lights showed green. Another, more experienced long-term expat brave enough to drive a scooter to work every day told reporters he was now used to the anarchy on the roads and does his best to avoid it.

A Russian expat with six years’ experience of the Chinese style of motoring simply stated the city has too many cars, unhelpful traffic police and scary taxi drivers. Another American told it like it is, saying that Chinese drivers are selfish and indifferent to the consequences of their lack of care. He’s determined never to drive in the city, and gets around using Uber taxis, whose drivers, he says, are reliable and speak reasonable English.
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