Kind of travel, kind of government/traffic planning commentory: I arrived midnight at Beijing airport, with my alarm having gone off 22 hours before in Sydney and a cloudy mind that reflected it. I was a little surprised at how easy it was to get through customs. I finally found where the taxi’s were and gave a map to the taxi’s driver of the location of my hotel. Once underway he started asking other taxi drivers where it was and there was a lot of laughter. As you can see I know no Mandarin. The taxi itself was a Hyundai Elantra. It had what looked to be an old dog blanket draped over the back seat and no rear seat belt. This was soon to become important. As we exited the airport we seem to join an armada of taxis. At the front was what I took to be a communist party car with flashing blue and red lights. All around the sky had descended. The pollution had combined with fog at ground level. Visibility was down to a couple of hundred meters. With a backdrop of lights winking through the smog and an ever accelerating taxi it was a very surreal experience. It was about this time the taxi accelerated past the car with the flashing lights and continued to steadily accelerate along the expressway towards the city centre. About now I came to the conclusion that lane markings were not so much an indication of where a vehicle should be on a road, but more a confirmation you were driving along a road, rather than across it. Speed was also a variable thing as we seemed to slalom our way through the night. I eventually came to the hotel, nerves frayed, thanks in no small part to my navigation and a lot of hand gesturing. The next day dawn. The hotel was about 8kms by road out of the city centre. I initially considered walking the whole way but decided to get the train. I descended into a subway not fare from the hotel but at this point the English signs disappeared and I couldn’t figure out how to buy a ticket, let alone be sure I was getting on the right train. So I ascended again and tried to get a taxi. He wanted to haggle a price with me rather than use the meter, which I would have considered, but he condescendingly laughed with his mate when I mentioned where I wanted to go, so I told him to shove it and decided to proceed on foot. In the end I was happy to do this. Sort of. About half way there I remembered the boots I was wearing were good to walking in, IF you were wearing thick socks. I wasn’t. The Chinese cityscape is a real eye opener in that initially it seems like utter madness. There are all types of vehicles. Things that wouldn’t even be close to roadworthy in Australia. There were cars, petrol bikes, electric bikes, 2, 3 and 4 wheels, ploughs and, of course, bicycles. There also didn’t seem to be many rules either. Red lights meant little and direction was more of a general thing than a must. Pedestrian crossings seemed more of a convenient place to collect bodies rather than a place where vehicles must give way to people. I eventually made it where I was going and got to spend some time walking through many different types of areas. I spent a few days doing this and had better taxi experiences. I even got to ride in a bit of a 3 wheeled tuk-tuk type of thing. I know I got ripped price wise on this last thing, but it’s all relative. It was only about $3.50 Australia but it was worth it for the experience. After a few days the madness began to make sense. Everything flowed. Had they been bound to the same traffic rule we have here there would have just been gridlock. Anybody that believes bicycles should be banned, or be subject to exactly the same traffic rules as cars, needs to go to a major Asian city and be objective about it. They might be going every which way, but they move people. It also got me thinking about the role of electric scooters and the role they could play, given an open minded government. In Beijing I’m not sure about the licensing of these things, but a permit system would be a good way to go in our cities. These things would reduce pollution in the city and move people around at a respectable pace and reduce congestion. I can’t see it happening. I did see one accident whilst I was there, but it was only minor. Had the same number of people commuted past me in Sydney I would have a least seen one accident. I think our city planners and traffic enforcement agencies need to go to these heavily populated cities and have a look at what is good, what is bad, and what really does and doesn’t matter. Sure Beijing is polluted and crowded, but it would be much, much worse if they tried to operate like us. Beijing is an interesting place. It is dirty, but only little more so than some European cities. It is busy. The government is ever present, but tends to leave you alone. The concept of a 17 year old in uniform watching over things is scary, but they don’t seem to have a chip. Some taxi drivers are scammers, but you get that all over the world. There are other tourist scams going on but mainly around Tiananmen. Haggling get tiresome after a while and apparently a foot massage translates differently. Overall it’s well worth visiting. I don’t think I could live there, but I think I could spend a few weeks there.