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Flying pigeon run over by Buick
August 3, 2009 10:30 PM   Subscribe

With a forecast of 20 percent growth in sales throughout 2009, China is a fascinating example of a society grappling with the effects that the automobile brings. Personally, I'd stick with bikes for the city, guys - it seems more fun.
posted by concreteforest (23 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bicycles ARE generally more practical for the city... I don't know about fun. They get you heated up in the summer and rain and snow is a problem. Then there are the cars -
posted by vvurdsmyth at 10:41 PM on August 3, 2009


The sheer volume of cars that are expected to sell in China is frightening. They already have a bad rep for their coal plants, and I just don't see the current regime actually enforcing decent emissions regulations for fear of stifling growth.
posted by spiderskull at 10:50 PM on August 3, 2009


Saw some figure very recently that sales of cars here had surpassed the US for the first time. Can't see it slowing for a while yet despite understanding and discussion of the advantage of alternatives as other social factors surrounding car ownership seem dominant and likely to remain so - prestige etc. - even if improvements to public transport could get up to speed. I understand the sustained strength of sales surprised economists (and worse, urban planners) used to having to account for a reluctance to indulge in consumer spending rather than such exuberance, and that it was those other factors that swung it.
I'm a Forever rather than a Flying Pigeon man myself, but that's a nice site.
posted by Abiezer at 10:50 PM on August 3, 2009


God, loth as I am to deprive anybody of the rights I freely (in principle at least, though I have no car) enjoy, the spectre of a billion Chinese pumping yet more particularlates, co2, carbon monoxide, etc. etc. into the atmosphere fills me with terror.
posted by smoke at 10:51 PM on August 3, 2009


Furthermore, as alluded above, the safety standards angle terrifies me on behalf of potential drivers as yet unfamiliar with the twisted metal bad driving can prelude.
posted by smoke at 10:53 PM on August 3, 2009


Related: Chinese car companies are going to unveil up to 89 new models from now until the end of the year, which is proof of how many cars they plan on moving.
posted by spiderskull at 10:55 PM on August 3, 2009


Bikes are fun. Let's get more bike lanes going.
posted by queensissy at 11:12 PM on August 3, 2009


PS - my bike riding to work in LA is seriously impaired by:

1) very high temperatures
2) idiot drivers even on "bike routes"

Side note: why are Prius drivers the worst about car-on-bike aggression? Is it just LA?
posted by queensissy at 11:14 PM on August 3, 2009


I'm with the guy throwing the brick at cars running the red light. Give 'em the Ignatz.
posted by pracowity at 11:47 PM on August 3, 2009


But about China and cars in general: if China develops and pushes small, clean cars, it may become less of an environmental disaster than a societal disaster. China doesn't need urban sprawl and the collapse of its city cores. This is where a strong central government could make a positive difference in various ways (bike lanes, pedestrian urban centers, strong emission controls, etc.), but I don't see the Chinese government doing that, not when government officials are the first to benefit from unrestrained yee-haw! car culture.
posted by pracowity at 12:51 AM on August 4, 2009


I don't see the collapse of Chinese city cores as likely, no matter how many cars they have. I think urban blight is almost restricted to the USA. In most of the rest of the world close to the city is a premium address.
posted by bystander at 1:15 AM on August 4, 2009


As a Beijing resident, I vastly prefer my bike over taxies in the morning and afternoon rush hours. Unfortunately, bicycle paths are taken up by parked cars, taxis, buses, trucks being used as stalls and a number of other things.

Adding to that, intersections are a bit of a nightmare. I'm almost certain I'll be involved in an accident before I leave, what with the way people are driving. For now, I stick with the "shoals" of Chinese crossing the street. Safety in numbers and all.
posted by flippant at 1:53 AM on August 4, 2009


Peter Hessler had a brilliant article in the New Yorker a couple of years ago, Wheels of Fortune, about learning to drive in China. Unfortunately it's not online, except for a very brief and unsatisfactory abstract. Curse you, online New Yorker! But a longer extract from the article can be found here, including some sample questions from the Chinese written driving exam:

354. If you are driving toward a big puddle and there are pedestrians near the water, you should:
(a) accelerate.
(b) slow down and make sure that the water does not splash them.
(c) continue at the same speed straight through the puddle.


More extracts from the Chinese driving exam here and here:

What should a driver do when he needs to spit while driving?
(a) Spit through the window.
(b) Spit into a piece of waste paper, then put it into a garbage can.
(c) Spit on the floor of the vehicle.


Drivers should:
(a) Deliberately underestimate each other.
(b) Compete for road supremacy.
(c) Learn and help each other, adopt one's strong point while overcoming one's weak point and keep safely driving.


I'm looking forward to Hessler's book on cars in China, Country Driving: A Journey from Farm to Factory, which comes out next spring.
posted by verstegan at 2:18 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


China's going to build ten billion cars in the next five minutes. Market penetration in the US is greater than 100% (more than one vehicle per person of driving age in the US). Market penetration is about 2% in China. Manufacturers are licking their lips apparently. I have only one question - where are they going to put all these new cars? Have you been to China and driven there? There's hardly enough room for the cars they currently have on the road system. Buy shares in Chinese road infrastructure. Do it. Seriously. Do it.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 3:12 AM on August 4, 2009


Wow. That driver's test is like those anti-drug commercials that make drugs look cool.

Compete for road supremacy?! (fuck yeah!)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:51 AM on August 4, 2009


TUO -- Japanese-style high-rise elevator parking garages? Or do you mean on the road? (either way, I can't imagine it either)

And add another huge number of asthma-related deaths onto this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:54 AM on August 4, 2009


Yeah, bikes aren't going to cut it in Beijing in January... or in Hong Kong with those hills... public transport is a better option.

LRT and LRRT networks feeding into efficient ground transport systems and car-free city centers to allow buses and trolleys easy and swift transit while encouraging commuters to leave the car at home are a better real-world solution.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:32 AM on August 4, 2009


I used to commute by bike everyday. I remember many times where I thought to myself that I was nuts. Luckily drivers there are 1) looking for bikes and 2) afraid hitting a bike will scratch their paint unlike hitting a pedestrian (which happens often, particularly when drivers drive on the sidewalk, yes, they do). There is something exhilerating though about getting into a stream of thousands upon thousands of bikes flowing down the side of a six lane highway far faster than the snarl of cars.

I wouldn't call commuting by bike in BJ fun. Exciting, sure. Interesting, endlessly. Fun, no.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:37 AM on August 4, 2009


Oh, and January in BJ was a bitch.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:38 AM on August 4, 2009


I don't see the collapse of Chinese city cores as likely, no matter how many cars they have. I think urban blight is almost restricted to the USA. In most of the rest of the world close to the city is a premium address.

Actually, the villas out by the 6th ring road are the premium address in BJ. They are busy bulldozing the historic housing in the city center for office skyscrapers, shoving more and more urban inner city poor into more and more concentrated high rise housing while at the same time expanding the road networks farther and farther outward to meet the demands of a growing middle class. Sound familiar at all?
posted by Pollomacho at 5:45 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


In most of the rest of the world close to the city is a premium address.

We tend to focus on good cities when we look at other countries, and bad cities when we look at our own.
posted by smackfu at 6:20 AM on August 4, 2009


Side note: why are Prius drivers the worst about car-on-bike aggression? Is it just LA?

Here in Long Beach we call that the Smug Singularity.

It occurs when one inflated self-righteousness drifts into the orbit of another inflated self-righteousness.
posted by notyou at 7:38 AM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


, the spectre of a billion Chinese pumping yet more particularlates, co2, carbon monoxide, etc. etc. into the atmosphere fills me with terror.
posted by smoke


Ha!
posted by sourwookie at 7:42 AM on August 4, 2009


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