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Whether you’re a foreign devil or dignitary, whether you live in China or you’re just passing through, you’re bound to come in contact with one or more of the Õ®§æ jiäotöng göngjù (modes of transportation) described in this week’s column. It’s a comfort to know that in large cities in China, most ¬Ì¬ mâlù (roads) are well-paved, Ϭõ hónglùdëng (traffic lights) function, and › ‘± jiàshîyuán (drivers) generally comply with basic traffic laws. But the growing number of µ¡æ chëliàng (vehicles), many of which are driven by relatively inexperienced drivers, and the large numbers of ––»À xíngrén (pedestrians) and cyclists who ¬À¿ búpàsî (aren’t afraid to die), lead to ¬µ dûchë (congestion) and Œ£œ’ wëixiân (danger) on China’s streets.

There are two different kinds of vehicles that can run you down when you least expect it: ص jïdòngchë (motor vehicles) and «Øµ fëi jïdòngchë (non-motor vehicles). Motor Vehicles (ص–Jïdòngchë)

Cars (µ Qìchë)
One of the requisite possessions of any genuine ¥ÛøÓ dàkuân (moneybags)—besides a girlfriend half his age—is a À»Àµ sïrénchë (privately-owned car), also called a ‘±µ zìbèichë (personal car). But the vast majority of Chinese people are too «Ó qióng (poor) to drive. It’s not the car they can’t afford—it’s the hefty bribe to the department of motor vehicles required to obtain a ’’ páizhào (license plate).

‚µ Chüzü qìchë (taxis) are undoubtedly the most ubiquitous thing on China’s streets, besides ¿¨¯ läji (litter). The near-extinct ¯Êµƒ miàndï (bread-loaf shaped minivans) once ruled the roads of the capital, driven by the dregs of Beijing’s Õ¨ hútòng’r (back alleys) and demobilized tank commanders. Today, fleets of new sedans ramble in their stead.

Other cars include æص jîngchë (police cars) and 滧µ jiùhùchë (ambulances). Then there are various types of ø®µ kâchë (trucks), such as 滵 jiùhuôchë (fire trucks), ¿¨¯µ läjïchë (garbage trucks) and »ÀƵ sâshuîchë, which blast loud music and spray the streets with water at night. The music is intended to warn pedestrians to get out of the way lest they get soaked with water. The water is intended not to clean the streets but to cool them down in the hot summer months. However, some trucks spray water laced with insecticide and anti-fungal agent to protect the trees and give cancer to the pedestrians.

Public Transportation Vehicles (´µ–Göngjiäochë) ´µ
Gönggòng qìchë (public buses), those smoke-spitting behemoths used to transport the masses, can be found all over China. Beijing is characterized by the –°´ “xiâo gönggòng”, which are mini public buses that follow the same route as their ±ø÷ÿ bènzhòng (bulky and awkward) big brothers, but charge more because they offer greater comfort and speed. Nowadays buses can also be called by their hip “Chinglish” name Õ øµ bäshìchë, or ¥ÛÕ dàbä.

Many Chinese cities also make use of µÁµ diànchë (“electric buses”, or cable cars). These buses get their electricity from a web of charged wires suspended over the city. The µÁµ diànchë features an appendage that protrudes from the roof of the bus and links to the overhead wire. If you’ve been in China long enough then you’ve undoubtedly seen the electric bus stopped with the driver and sometimes passengers trying to get the tentacle connected back up to the wire. That, like a foreigner involved in an argument with a Chinese person, never fails to draw a crowd.

Here are some helpful hints for when you’re out during the  ±‰ gäofëng shíjiän (rush hour) commute: the term œ»œ¬Û…œ “xiänxià hòushàng”, or “wait for passengers to get off the bus before getting on”, should be ignored completely. You can file that expression with other useless ones like ÷լõ jìnzhî tûtán (no spitting) and «Î” qîng páiduì (please get in line).

When aboard a crowded bus or µÿà dìtiê (subway), repeatedly mutter the phrase ‘¯¥ƒ«¯¥”µ “zênme nàme yöngjî?” (“how can it be so crowded?”) under your breath. It’s also appropriate to mutter ÷–»Àô‡¡À “Zhöngguórén taìduöle” (“there are too many Chinese people”).

Non-Motor Vehicles («Øµ–fëi jïdòngchë)
Even overpaid foreign correspondents and language pundits know that the number one «Øµ fëi jïdòngchë in China is none other than the ‘––µ zìxíngchë (bicycle, lit. “self-moving vehicle”). Bicycles are also known as çµ jiâotàchë and µ•µ dänchë.

Whereas in the West everyone owns a car, in China everyone owns a bicycle. Similarly, bicycle theft is as common in China as car theft is in the West. Always buy  ÷µ èrshôuchë (second-hand bicycles), as new bicycles have a tendency to disappear faster than a stray dog in a Cantonese restaurant. And you should always use two µÀ¯ chësuô (bike locks), since Chinese bicycle thieves are as adept at picking locks as Chinese companies are at «÷÷™ »® qïnfàn zhïshi chânquán (committing intellectual property rights infringements).

In China, in any traffic accident involving an automobile and a pedestrian or cyclist, the driver of the automobile is always presumed to be at fault (similarly, if a foreigner is involved in a driving accident with a Chinese person, the foreigner is automatically considered at fault). Armed with that knowledge, Chinese bicyclists and pedestrians are among the bravest people in the world, right up there with £ ø dòuniúshì (matadors). They drift slowly across busy streets, intersections and highways with reckless abandon, giving little or no thought to the definite possibility that this could be their last sortie to the vegetable market. After all, the driver of the vehicle will certainly swerve first, since an accident will only result in his or her own monetary loss.

If you’re going to ride a bicycle in China, there are a few basic vocabulary words (besides the ¬Ó»À màrénhuà—curse words) you should be familiar with. µ— Chëbâ (handlebars) are necessary for swerving and holding up a µ¿ chëlán (basket), which is used for carrying groceries, pets or a spare child. The most useful part of your bicycle is undoubtedly the µ¡Â chëlíng (bell), used to warn other cyclists and pedestrians that you have no intention of slowing down or swerving. The least useful part of your bicycle is the …µ shächë (brakes). And of course no bicycle is complete without a  È¸‹ shübäojià (bookbag frame), purportedly meant to carry books but actually used to transport a second passenger on the back of your bike (an optional third passenger can sit on the bar between the cyclist and the handlebars).

It’s summertime and one of the greatest hazards of bicycle riding (even greater than the danger of getting hit by a watermelon truck) is exposure to the darkening rays of the sun. Women should remember to wear ô—Ù—¤æµ tàiyáng yânjìng (sunglasses, also called ƒ´æµ mòjìng), a ø’÷ kôuzhào (face mask), long white gloves and a huge hat, casting a large, protective shadow. Apply ample amounts of ¿…À™ fángshàishuäng (sun tan lotion) for extra protection.

In closing, the Comrade would like to recite the following popular limerick: –À–À…œ‡, ÿ“ “gäogäo xìngxìng shàngbän, píngpíng änän huíjiä” (“go merrily to work, and return home safely”). For the œ¬ xiàgâng (unemployed), here’s wishing you »´µ“ “änquán dìyï” (“safety first”). Drive carefully!


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