The blossoming of spring’s great weather and the move closer to work has brought me into the world of commuting by bike. I used to zoom all over campus back at Kent State and now I do the same in Shanghai.
It’s about a 20 minute ride or so to get to work and now living in the French concession I have a ton of different bars/cafes/cool places to go within a 15/20 minute ride (many are much closer).
Riding a bike in a city like Shanghai takes a certain level of concentration , awareness, and an inner-Zen state to keep from going insane. Cars , motorbikes, pedestrians, and other bicycles zoom by at all points. People step out onto the curb without looking , riders come the wrong way right at you down a one way bike lane , motorbikes race by on the sidewalks , and the traffic rules are generally ignored. At all times the air is thick with the honking of horns indicating imminent death.
Everyday , it seems, I witness a minor clash , small collision , bump , tap , etc. In my two years of being a pedestrian here I have born witness to a few more severe crashes. I’m waiting for it to happen to me.
Rule #1 for staying alive in traffic is Assume everyone around you is a complete idiot and will not hesitate to cut across 4 lanes of bike traffic without even looking . Assume that everyone is capable of stopping right in front of you in the middle of the bike with no indication and will then sit there and block everyone for no reason at anytime.
If you expect the absolute insane to happen at any time you are on the road to survival.
Yesterday’s moment of the day occurred at an intersection of Sinan Rd and JianGuo Xi Lu.
I was pedaling slowly along approaching the intersection. An older lady was riding in front of me. She had a cute little girl on the back of the bike and I was laughing at the little girl. She was looking all around in amazement and smiling. I was just thinking of how cute she was while they stopped at the crossing ahead. All of a sudden a guy on an electric china post bike accelerated down the sidewalk onto the road and ran right into the side of the lady’s bike. ( She was in the middle of the zebra lines). It wasn’t a hard crash and the look of shock on her face was priceless. In slow motion she lost her balance and gracefully tipped over. She managed to get a foot on the ground so the bike didn’t completely smash to the ground. The lady wasn’t hurt at all and the little girl stoically took it in silence. A few people rush over to grab the little girl and make sure the lady was ok. The guy on the electric bike said sorry the best he could and he was trying to keep the laughter off his face. The people who rushed over to help were also trying very hard not to bust out laughing. The only person who didn’t find it amusing was the bike rider herself. The helpful pedestrians pointed out that she was indeed in the crossing for the traffic from the other direction.