China struggles with few roads for many cars: Erratic driving and careless pedestrians add to mounting traffic chaos, writes Teresa Poole

WHEN the traffic on Peking's showcase Third Ring Road ground to a halt recently, the jam was literally the fault of a road- hog: a pig on its way to market had jumped from the back of an open truck and on to the four-lane highway, causing chaos as it tried to evade the farmer.

Escaping pigs are not the usual cause of traffic jams, however. Peking's increasingly serious traffic congestion has more mundane causes: the inability of the road- building programme to keep up with the rising number of vehicles, and the erratic driving of most Chinese.

Over the past 10 years, the 'kingdom of the bicycle' has embraced the internal combustion engine with passion. And like its Asian neighbours, China's fast- growing economy is seen in gridlock on the roads.

Wang Jian Yong, head of China's traffic management bureau, under the all-powerful Public Security Ministry, admits that clearing a traffic lane for a smooth ride through Peking for an official convoy or foreign visitor is 'much more difficult than before'. Only the most important visitors are now given this courtesy.

The problems are set to get much worse. In 1983, according to China Today magazine, there were just 60 private cars in the country. Now there are around 50,000, and an official at the State Statistics Bureau earlier this year claimed that rapidly improving standards of living should make Chinese-made saloon cars affordable to ordinary families by the year 2010. Car ownership is the key status symbol for China's new rich, and preferably an upmarket model. This week the country's largest car fair, the Auto China 94 exhibition, opens in Peking and a quarter of a million people are expected to ogle the world's newest fantasies on four wheels.

In practice, with heavy tax pushing up the cost of a car to about 18 times an average urban annual salary, most of China's 1 million cars are still owned by the state or joint venture firms, although this does not stop them ferrying cadres' children to school and taking the family out at weekends. Government crackdowns on the profligate use of state money to buy cars and their misuse by government officials has had little effect so far.

At the end of 1993, says Mr Wang, the number of cars, trucks and buses in China reached more than 8 million, up by nearly one- fifth on the previous year. By the year 2000 that figure is expected to jump to 20 million, a statistic that gladdens the hearts of motor vehicle manufacturers, but which means China's main cities - Peking, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan - may face the same fate as Bangkok and Taipei, notorious for their traffic. In Shanghai, the government has banned the use of car horns from this Friday because drivers stuck in jams make so much noise.

The traffic problems are exacerbated by some of the worst driving in Asia, and the large numbers of pedestrians who wander across busy roads, oblivious to the dangers. More than 63,000 people were killed last year in 240,000 reported accidents. Cars veer from lane to lane, everyone happily drives the wrong way up one-way streets, and taxis screech to a halt anywhere to pick up passengers. Faced with this anarchy on the roads, the government has launched a programme in schools and among farmers to teach drivers and pedestrians about traffic awareness. To get some idea of what has to be done, this year's programme is called the 'Red and green traffic light project'.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballIt's not a game to lose, writes Paul Scholes
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for Year 4

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: A Teaching Assistant is requ...

Nursery Teacher in Sherwood

£100 - £145 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Teaching job available wor...

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes