Mittwoch, 25. Juli 2012

Traffic in Shenyang - The Players. Part 1.

For a couple of months now I´m owning a little electric scooter. Those became more and more popular here in China in the last couple of years, as they are pretty cheap (even a migrant worker can afford one spending a month`s wage), of course more comfortable as a bicycle and during rush hour the quickest way to get through town. Mine`s a pretty basic model and with 40 km/h and a range of about 35 km sufficient for a cruise through this huge city.

So now I´m one among millions swarming through the city every day on their rides to get to work, home or anywhere else. On bigger roads scooters and bicycles have their own lanes, and in Shenyang almost every road is big. And if not, you just ride on the sidewalks, as you`re officially not allowed to drive on the road along with cars. Not that anyone really cared. But on a scooter you´re mainly surrounded by other cyclists or scooters, so this post revolves all around the interesting and to the eye of a western beholder somewhat strange encounters in this chaotic world of Shenyang city traffic.

Shenyang cyclists can be categorized in mainly three categories according to what purpose they use their bike or scooter for - I identified civilians, transporters and officials.


 The "civilian" cyclist is defined by not using his ride to work or earn money with it, mainly by transporting stuff, but for private means, mainly getting someplace. Pretty obvious, I guess.

Most of them are normal,ordinary, not worh mentioning cyclists and scooter riders, but there are also lots of interesting subspecies, e.g.


I named this kind of cyclists after their resemblance to this ghost-like beings from the Harry Potter movies. They also wear veil and you can`t see their faces.

The Shenyang Dementor is exclusively female and middle-aged. They wear this to protect their faces from strong winds, insects, dust and the sun. And pose a threat to everyone else as I highly doubt you can see really clearly through those "curtains", be they transparent or not.

Space (Wo-)men

Mostly middle-aged women like the Dementors, they use a different method to protect their faces from dust and sun -  huge caps with "sun glasses" that work like a car`s wind shield and cover the whole face, giving them somewhat the appearance of astronauts or futuristic 70ies science fiction movies or 80ies music videos.

Family Trips

 The last subspecies is something you probably encounter in a lot of other Asian countries too - the "a-whole-bunch-of-people-on-a-single-tiny-bike"-category. Of course we have`em here in Shenyang, too. You sometimes wonder why people travel like this, especially when children are involved, but the traffic safety awareness is still pretty low in China in general as real road safety education is rare - in cars for example children seats are not mandatory when transporting them, and besides the driver no one is obliged to wear safety belts. So of course on bikes you act as careless, as there is no law against doing so:

As always, those are only examples where I had my camera at hand and was quick enough to take a picture - you can encounter far worse here. And I must admit, as I was mostly riding my bike while taking these pictures, I became a huge traffic hazard myself because of course you might forget focussing on the road while huntig for that particular picture - or talking on the phone, what almost every Chinese does while driving or riding:

That`s it on the categories among "civilian" riders. Next blog post will be all about what Chinese transport how on bikes. Even more weird and risky and dangerous.

Freitag, 6. Juli 2012

On the move.

This weekend, throughout the country the semester break starts and the students all over China start swarming back into their hometowns to be with their families for a couple of weeks.

 It´s like a smaller "Spring Festival", where normally half of China`s population is somehow on the move, mainly from bigger metropolitan areas to smaller home towns to visit old friend and mostly family. During semster break it`s "just" students, but their number has risen to almost 30.000.000 in the last ten years.

As a student in China, you don`t really have a choice where to live and stay during the semester - normally you get assigned a dormitory room  on campus that you have to share with other students - one at least, if you´re lucky, but mostly with three, five or even seven others. Even if your family lives in the city where you study, you have to live in a dorm on campus. Needless to say that all student dorms are seperated by gender and get locked and the electricity gets switched off at around 11 pm.

With almost all students living on campus, universities become small towns, surrounded by a wall, surrounded by a bigger city. A city in a city.

And if this city`s student inhabitants all want to leave at the same time, the campus infrastructure reaches its limits. So China postal services for example had to set up stalls on campus and work extra shifts to get all student`s mail and luggage checked in - still students had to line up in long queues:

Although one has to admit that Chinese almost never travel light - I sometimes have a feeling there`s a nation-wide three-bag-check-in-minimum:

As domestic flight services in China increase, it opens up a new possibility for students to get home conveniently and quickly. Domestic airlines know about their potential new customers and some of them, in this picture China Southern Air, even offer check-in on campus and try to attract new customers with raffling free tickets: