Jaywalkers to be punished, but what about those blasted drivers?

We all know traffic problems abound in Shanghai, much the same as any metropolis, but are measures to punish jaywalkers only tackling part of the problem?

We all know traffic problems abound in metropolises around the world ─ Shanghai is no exception. But are measures to punish jaywalkers only tackling part of the problem?

Shanghai traffic police recently told Shanghai Daily that they will be cracking down on jaywalkers, with repeat offenders facing a 20 yuan (US$3) fine after two warnings. 

Police will request ID when jaywalkers are spotted in the act from now on, and even though they won’t face a fine the first two times, a legal document will be issued stating the offense and recording it in the system.

That’s great, but I can’t help but feel that it’s targeting only one of the problems that plague Shanghai streets.

Firstly, what is jaywalking? It’s when someone crosses the road without using a designated zebra crossing, or someone who crosses on a zebra crossing when the light is red.

But if you’ve spent any time on Shanghai streets, you’ll know that the main problem with pedestrians probably isn’t when or where they cross the road, but those people that seem intent on walking parallel along the street, often with their backs to traffic and playing with their mobile phones.

Why can’t this be included in the scope of this jaywalking move?

And while we’re on a roll, I think it should also come down hard on those pesky drivers who cut across bike lanes and sidewalks and refuse to stop at the very zebra crossings we’re meant to use to cross the road safely.

For some reason, as I’ve lamented many times before, many Shanghai drivers, pedestrians and cyclists seem to have no clear idea about space and flow and how others are affected when, say, a car is parked across a sidewalk or an electric scooter zooms down a silkwalk.

Of course, to suggest it’s most drivers and pedestrians would be foolish — Shanghai has a huge population and, although the above problems can be encountered often, it’s clear that the majority are considerate. But it’s targeting those last few that is probably the hardest, which is why I feel that tougher measures will probably be required.

To be fair, for a city of more than 24 million, the streets and subways work extremely well. I’ve sat in hourlong gridlocks in cities whose population doesn’t even reach 200,000, let alone 1 million, let alone more than 20 million!

Regardless, things can always be better, which is why I really hope that the government will better target the multitude of problems on the streets and not just focus on a small part.

Other laws that have seemingly randomly been enforced in the last few years include one where tooting car horns became illegal inside the Outer Ring Road. That law has actually been on the books in Shanghai since 2007, but it didn’t begin to be seriously enforced until 2016 when thousands of drivers were fined.

And it wasn’t until recently that seatbelts became mandatory, perhaps surprisingly considering how helpful we know they are in accidents. Taxi drivers were forced to rummage for those lost belt clips that had somehow fallen down some black hole after years of neglect. What a relief that was.

I guess my pet peeve is that problems seem to be targeted as if on a drip feed, bit by bit by bit. Man man lai (slowly, slowly), a colleague said — my instant reply was kuai kuai lai (quickly, quickly), even though that’s not even a proper phrase in Chinese.

Perhaps it’s time I sat back and relaxed a bit. Another idea might be to stop riding my electric scooter to work every day — that might at least help my blood pressure.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, they always tell me.

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