Archive for the ‘How-To’ Category

Internet at my current accommodations are non-existent, I have to walk about a mile to get to a coffee shop and hijack their WiFi. Yes, it is in fact a Starbucks. I could be sitting at any corner in Seattle right now, except for the fact that the clientèle is completely Asian. Actually, scratch that, I could still be in Seattle.

After a day touring Beijing, I took the overnight train to Xi’an, the Ancient Capital of China during the Tang dynasty. This is my second day here now, and I’m beginning to get settled in. But more about these two cities later. Right now I want to introduce you to my new step-by-step guide, “How To Not Get Killed While Crossing The Street (or: Look Both Ways Even When Crossing A One-Way Street)”. This is the text-only guide, the photo-supplement will be uploaded at a later date.

Step 1: Find a street you would like to cross.

Invariably, this will be an 16-lane street. What I mean by this is that even though lines on the street clearly separate 8 equally spaced sections for vehicles to motor through, drivers need to account for the CDLC (Chinese Driving Lanes Coefficient). The CDLC starts at 1 during 1-4 am, then increases once morning hours commence. The coefficient saturates at 2, when it is no longer physically possible to fit more cars, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, mopeds, stray cats, stray dogs, loose children, and feral chickens into the width of tarmac. Multiply by the number of lanes actually present, and you’ll have the number of cars that can fit abreast in the road.

Step 2: Step off the curb onto the shoulder, and look both ways.

Just looking from the sidewalk is useless, as every other Chinese pedestrian will also step into the street, preventing you from seeing anything other than a sea of black hair. The more you lean precariously forward into the street, the more you’ll be able to make like an Olympic sprinter once you see a glimpse of empty road that is wide enough for one (and only one) person.

NOTE: Make sure you’re looking for somewhere without a crosswalk. The black and white delineations are read as lane dividers to Chinese drivers, and the opportunity to fit 20+ cars in a single stretch of road causes them to accelerate.

NOTENOTE:  Look both ways even when crossing a one-way street. Directionality of roads has no meaning to motorcycles and bicyclists.

Step 3: Make sure there are no buses.

This step is imperative. The standard method for a bus in Xi’an to pick up and drop passengers on and off is to put on the clutch while at cruising speed, and allow the coasting bus to slow down on its own. Then, veer towards the curb, open the door, and allow (push) passengers to hop on and off when the bus’ speed is below 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour, since we are in Rome). Since you’re already in the street, the bus will think you’re a passenger wanting to get on, and intentionally steer towards you. No need to worry about taxis: they don’t stop for anyone unless you stand in front of them in the middle of the road.

Step 4: Take a deep breath. A DEEP breath.

This increases your visibility. As the majority of the Chinese population is extremely skinny, breathing in will widen your body enough that you could possibly be two Chinese people. Drivers are less likely to hit two people crossing the street than they are to hit a single bachelor (like me).

Step 5: Walk at an extremely disjointed and erratic pace.

This part is exactly like the game Frogger. Except there are no logs that are safe for you to stand on. Don’t be afraid to go backwards as well, sometimes this is necessary to facilitate general forward movement.

Step 6: Lower your head and push when you reach the other side.

The other side of the street has an equally large wall of people trying to cross the street the other way. Push hard, and don’t be ashamed. If you don’t, someone behind you will gladly take your place, shoving you back into the street. Make sure your head is lowered, so that umbrellas don’t poke you in the eye.

NOTE: Umbrellas are open at all times of day, regardless of weather or heat. I think it’s a genetic predisposition.

Step 7: Buy a lottery ticket.


Now that I’ve covered pedestrianism, stay tuned for the next installment governing public transit. And maybe the weather, too.