Beijing drivers should be more polite

By Cai Shanshan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-04 10:28
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Honking. Competing. Jumping traffic lights. These are the common traffic scenes in the car-ridden capital of Beijing.

It was interesting recently when heavy snow in the capital impeded transportation and gave many people a hard time, because it also made drivers more polite. You didn't have to worry about being run over or getting in someone's way with an angry look. You didn't have to put up with non-stop honking from impatient drivers. These were things I really liked about the snow.

Hot-tempered motorists on the roads of Beijing have been one of my worst nightmares. To accidentally stand in the way of a furious car-owner is the last thing I want to experience. The angry honking and cold look can ruin my whole morning. I sometimes even worry if they might just run me over when I fail to make room. Just kidding!

What I'm not going to joke about is my experience in Bangkok last year. I didn't hear any annoying honking noises on the streets even though the congestion was far heavier than in Beijing. It surprised me when one of my friends there told me that drivers in Bangkok never honk unless something really unpleasant happens. Another big difference is it was always the drivers, and not the pedestrians, who were stuck waiting. They would make a gesture signaling "please" and let pedestrians go first. I was not used to this and found myself saying "thank you" to them.

I appreciated the small but meaningful gesture so much that I brought it back with me as one of my best memories of Bangkok. The stark contrast between our two Asian capitals enhanced my wish for traffic harmony in China.

Things are changing. The Beijing municipal government has adopted a series of measures to curb the city's air pollution posed by vehicle emissions, including traffic control based on number plates, and the recent emission tax scheme.

I believe that Beijing could become even better if the harmony between drivers and pedestrians can be improved.