Tuesday, July 5, 2011

More Bridge Adventures

In an earlier pair of posts I presented a variety of photos regarding the sign seen here:

sign with slash through a person on a bike with an arrow below the bike pointing to the left

placed at the entrance to a ramp for crossing this bridge in Chengdu, Sichuan province:

bridge crossing a road

The first post more fully describing the scene is here.  The second post with readers' very insightful & creative thoughts on the meaning of the sign, some additional clues, and the final "answer" is here.

So as not to give away the answer to the meaning of the sign to those who haven't yet read the posts, I'll simply say that many people, either in China or outside, were not able to figure out the meaning of the sign on their first try and that the message was being ignored, misunderstood, or not noticed by a number of people on the bridge itself.  A Chinese reader who now lives in the US had her own views on the situation:
"who, of chinese origin, would look at signs! That's where u americans get lost! u actually read them!!!

And take it from an American Chinese (sort of), this is the honest truth. The Chinese don't care about traffic rules or any other kind of rules, as much as the Americans. Just look at the way they cross the street, you think they haven't seen the traffic lights?"
I'll agree with the reader that pedestrians in China are typically more "free" in how they cross roads.  But why this is the case and a discussion of other differences in "road behavior" is a topic I'll save for another day, or year.  On the side, I've noticed some significant regional differences within both the US and China so I think comparing the entire countries can obscure some potentially interesting issues.

I also mentioned in the earlier post that the sign touches on the the design challenge of when it may be best to use a "do" or "do not" sign to express a message.  Since the ramps were apparently designed for a very specific use, a "do" sign may have been more effective.

Regardless, I saw no evidence that people would interpret the above sign as implying driving a car across the bridge is permissible.  There weren't any "no cars" signs but it may have been felt that such a sign was not needed since it would already be obvious to drivers.

However, someone did drive their car across a similar bridge in Kunming, Yunnan province.  This feat is all the more spectacular since there was no dedicated ramp and they drove up and down stairs clearly intended for pedestrians.   The video is a bit fuzzy, but from what I can tell these are a common design of stairs that have narrow and steep ramps on either side to wheel up or down bikes.  Most bridges I've seen in China are like this one and don't have separate ramps and stairs like the bridges I saw in Chengdu.  Here's the video of the determined driver:

According to a post on the Wall Street Journal's "China Realtime Report" here, the driver had been stuck in traffic and used the bridge to make a U-turn.  I've experienced my fair share of seemingly impossible-to-resolve traffic jams in China.  Once in Shenzhen I got out of the taxi to walk the rest of the way.  Another time in Xian the taxi driver made use of a bike path to turn around and find another route.  And once outside of Shijiazhuang a bus driver decided to get particularly creative and took a route that turned an easy two hour trip into a five hour adventure with moments I thought the bus was going to fall on its side (the roads were clearly not made for large buses).

So, I can somewhat empathize with the presumably frustrated driver although I don't condone his action.  Though, to be fair I can't see what, if any, signs were posted.  Of course, according to the reader above that wouldn't have mattered.

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