3 China tips to not fall on your rump, clothesline a scooter, or get clobbered in the turn

Hours of happy walks through Shanghai’s streets this weekend reminded me of the physics of navigating this city and staying intact.

1. Sidewalks, stairs, walkways, just about anywhere a foot can fall in China’s cities can be on polished stone that slides like ice when it rains. Some of these are in patterns with some stones of sturdy footing and some like glass. Stairs sometimes have rough surfaces or metal guards, but these can be worn down or missing in places. It rains a lot in Shanghai. I almost took a tumble on some metro station stairs and a few sidewalks. I had to schuss up the slope at my hotel last night. Beware. One option is to walk on the rough areas used for navigation by the blind.

China Slippery Stairs

Watch out for breaks in the slip guards

2. Whenever exiting a taxi, look carefully behind before opening the door. Bikes and scooters try to zip by on even the narrowest space between curb and taxi. This afternoon I saw a man take a nasty tumble and his scooter smashed by a young man flinging open a taxi door.

3. Right turn on red is allowed and no one slows or yields. As a colleague mentioned on a particularly dangerous intersection by the office, where the right turn goes through a racing curve and wheels lift off the ground as cars round the bend, “Green does not mean it is safe to cross.”

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  • Ted F

    My dad’s foreign client said to me, “I learned 20 years ago traffic lights are for reference only in China, still true today”

  • Jon

    Also, beware of the electric moped – like a normal moped, but in stealth mode. Their electric motors make almost no noise, and they can appear seemingly out of nowhere just as you are ready to cross the street.

  • mech

    Yes, unfortunately many of the Chinese bring their driving skills here.

  • Mikey

    sounds a bit like crossing a street in bkk, look left, right and up.

  • dj

    honk when you are about to driver thru(run) the red light is a good practice, that way the crossing traffic can slow down & let you pass through. as long as everyone does the same thing it works just fine. do not expect what you are used to in your country when you travel overseas, especially in china. otherwise dont even set your foot there, remember they welcome but did not ask you to visit, you choose to.

  • Craig

    I returned from a week in Guangzhou last month and the traffic there was totally crazy! There was more two-way traffic on some one-way streets, than two-way streets. It’s true — you have to always look both ways on one-way streets. But in an odd way, this all adds character to the country!