China Exit and transportation

Trip Start Aug 01, 2007
Trip End Jul 05, 2008

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Flag of China  ,
Monday, July 7, 2008

The China holiday is over.  Some overachiever in the party decided that the place would be safer during the Olympics if they got rid of all extraneous foreigners, especially the lowlifes with my type of business visa.  So they gave me the boot.  Seems like a good time to share China's transportation methods.
This week, ceremonies were held for the opening of the Beijing-Tianjin suburban high speed railway.  Shanghai has had one of these in operation for a while, a 30 km line from a European consortium, but this newest train is made in China, 120 kilometers long.  It's highest speed during the test was 394 kilometers an hour, about 260 mph.
Those are for show, of course.  Most Chinese have no motorized transport.  China has about 15 million private vehicles, 1.2 private cars per 100 persons, compared to the US with 175 million cars, almost 60 cars per 100 people.  These pictures show the diversity of transportation in China.  The majority of people take buses to work.  Most trade goods are carried on motorbike or bicycle.  Real size trucks are used for construction projects and highway transport, though not many 18 wheelers in China, and certainly no triple trailers.  Concrete trucks are about the same size as the US.
It is refreshing that cars are so irrelevant in China.  Cars are prestigious to be sure, and the kids are all interested in them, but they are beyond reach for most families.  The car shows are well attended with all the usual promotions.  Buicks, Cadillacs, and all the German and Japanese manufacturers are here.  China is now building its own car in conjunction with Volkswagen, which will surely be a heavy favorite in a few years.
Even in situations where cars would make sense, the Chinese are often not inclined.  The pictures here of the Wenchan earthquake survivors carrying their salvaged household goods is an example.  That really is a guy carrying a refrigerator on his back, across the rubble of the quake. 
China does have an infinite grade of commercial transport.  For people moving, the bullet trains top the list, but the options go down to seats on the back of bicycles - a rickshaw-bicycle hybrid.  You can still get a rickshaw ride in the larger tourist cities.  In all cities, rides and delivery for hire are available by bus, taxi, pedicab (3 wheeler), motorcycle, and bicycle.  I'm certain you could find someone to carry you on their back in an emergency. 
Trains are always full, used mostly for long range travel instead of planes.  A trip to Beijing takes one hour by plane, costs about $120 RT.  The same trip takes 14 hours by train, cost $30.  Trains carry more than 100 times the number of passengers as planes.
Cable cars and inclines are common in China.  You see some as tourist rides, but many are functional ways to get up the hill, like the ones that deliver tourists up to the Great Wall, which would otherwise be an all day hike, even prohibitive for most people.  Mao said you aren't a man until you've climbed the Great Wall.  Maybe.  I took the cable car.  Mao also liked to joke about bodily functions.
Surprisingly, bicycles are not that popular in Dalian.  The government discourages bike riding because of the danger in Dalian's traffic.  Too bad too, because Dalian is relatively flat.  But they are probably right.  Traffic is so chaotic that bicycles would make pedestrians the alternate targets.

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