The Perils of Street Intersections

Most of the foreigners living in Shanghai will tell you : crossing the street for the first time in China can be a daunting, pulse-pouding experience. It’s probably the one thing about Shanghai I thought I would never get used to when I first arrived. Crossing any intersection, you have to deal with cars running through the red light, turning left and right on green and red lights, and bicycles just running through in a steady stream.

Well, we get used to everything. Case in point:

Last Friday, I am walking to work from the bus stop, listening to music on my iPod. I come to the street corner right across from work, which can be quite busy in the morning. Seeing the light change, I step in the street and begin crossing.

Unfortunately, a steady stream of bicycles are still running through the light, and it would be impossible to pass them by simply walking. So I use a Shanghai strategy : I walk slowly forward, my arms along my body, making sure not to make any sudden movement as bicycles stream past me in my front and back. I notice that most of the cyclists are looking at me rather angrily, but I don’t care.

Next, I come to the stream of cars. That’s when I notice something is wrong. There sure are many cars running that r… green light? Oh crap! It seems I was not awake enough to notice that I was busy negotiating a street intersection where my own light had just turned red.

I remove my earphones, and I finally notice the circulation agent, on the other sidewalk, blowing his whistle angrily at me. Chastised and vaguely embarrassed, I return to my side of the street, and wait for my green light to come on.

About Daniel Roy

Daniel is a writer, backpack foodie, slow traveler, and endurance runner. He is the author of the upcoming book, "The Way of Slow Travel: A Hands-On Guide to the Best Travel of Your Life."

One comment

  1. So.. you’ve got the green light, they’re going through a red and YOU get the dirty looks? Breathtakingly bizarre. I think I’d last about 5 minutes in China before blowing a gasket.

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