Easy Rider

I’m still in China this week and so my observations of Chinese motoring continue. Regardless of how much of a heap of junk your car actually is, if you’ve got four wheels under your buttocks in China, you’re off better than most.

This becomes really evident when you leave the city and drive for a while through mixed agricultural and industrial areas. The surroundings get progressively poorer as you get farther from the urban centres. That also means that the fraction of cars on the roads decreases, at the benefit of bicycles and particularly scooters and motorcycles (and, in all fairness buses as well). No snazzy Vespas and Piaggios or Harleys and Ducattis. Obviously. China’s biker mice drive patriot products! And cheap.

Chinese youngsters are pimpin’ with their Baotian and Jinan Qingqi scooters and those that need to go a bit further to get to their factory jobs – this may sound like a crude generalisation, but it’s actually not far off – ride Loncin, Zongshen or Jialing. Wicked! Massive!

Like Top Gear’s presenters on their tour to Vietnam, I am amazed time and time again at how versatile the Chinese deploy their motorbikes, some of which have three wheels, by the way. Some guys take their girlfriend on the back. Others their wife and three kids, as well as a basket of chickens and groceries for a week. Saw a guy with about 2,000 bananas sticking out a meter on either side of the bike the other day and another one with half a garbage truck worth of rubbish on top. It’s absolutely hilarious!

What else is so special about Chinese and their motorcycles, is the way they drive their two- or three-wheelers: without any protection apart from a flimsy toy helmet, changing lanes without looking and while driving much slower than surrounding traffic and sometimes completely on the wrong side of the road. They seem to be completely unconscious of the possibility of getting hit, falling off and face-grinding the asphalt, even though I’ve seen accidents pretty much every day. So far with only metal damage, fortunately, but still.

Then again, those that drive cars don’t necessarily drive any safer. I saw a man on a bridge today. His car had broken down on the outside lane and he was half underneath it, trying to fix it, with the other half of his body on the adjacent lane where traffic was speeding by at 50 to 60 mph.

Can you believe the balls on these people?!

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