While Shanghaiist has been here long enough that the picture to the right didn’t seem wrong at all, it’s true that Shanghai traffic can be a little crazy sometimes. And while we have personally been hit by a taxi (and several bicycles) it may be getting worse, despite efforts to the contrary. A few weeks ago Shanghaiist noticed that the intersection of Jianguo Xi Lu and Ruijin Er Lu was becoming rather, well, fortified. The sidewalk corners had been fenced in, and there were so many traffic wardens and police that we took to avoiding the intersection whenever possible. After all, when in a rush, the last thing we want is to have to stop at a red light. We did notice, however, a large number of signs standing on one corner, and had to investigate. It turns out that the signs are part of the most recent city-wide initiative to promote traffic safety that began in June. How? Well, whenever the police stop someone riding or walking the wrong way, they politely escort them over to the corner, where a warden attempts to educate them about the specific law they’ve violated. With the aid of pictures. Pedestrians, she informed us, are the biggest problem here. Strange, considering the police car turning left through a red light as she spoke. “In China we don’t talk about that,” she responded.
Very well, but why this particular corner? The warden told us that this corner was “especially messy” because both Jianguo and Ruijin Er are one way, with bicycles supposed to also be one way, though the opposite direction. If this sounds confusing, it is. The two wardens on the corner with the signs were delighted by our curiosity, and said that the program was a rousing success, gesturing at the intersection and saying, “Look, now the traffic’s working, before it was a disaster.” Of course, as they said this, two men on motorcycles whipped through the intersection headed west on Jianguo. Against traffic. Perhaps they went to driving school with Wang Jian Shuo. The wardens, after fielding our questions with what could only be called glee, were of course curious to discover our nationality. Upon hearing that we were American, they stumbled over each other to note that, as everyone knows, America doesn’t have these problems.