As Europeans studying in China we found it very challenging to adjust to local traffic as the culture of driving in this Asian country differs a lot from that of our home towns. This was a phenomenon that most of our colleagues experienced as well.
As Europeans studying in China we found it very challenging to adjust to Chinese traffic as the culture of driving in this Asian country differs a lot from the one in our home towns. This was a phenomenon that most of our colleagues experienced as well. The poor road safety is due to the fact that our college is close to the outskirts of the city (“the village”) and close to an impoverished industrial area, and is thus characterized by a lack of good driving culture. The brake-through point that made us want to take an initiative towards improving road safety was when one of our friends got run over in the village. As a result, we realized that actions needed to be taken so that no more pedestrians would be affected by road traffic accidents. Firstly, we analyzed what the threats for pedestrians are. After a long brainstorming session we pointed out the following issues: non-existent sidewalks along the main road, cars over speeding and disregarding pedestrians, side streets being too narrow as well as students not paying sufficient attention to traffic. In order to combat these problems we came up with several ideas, however some of them were too broad and not within our ability to realize. The ones that we believe could be conducted are: raising awareness within the student body by actions such as, but not limited to, distributing leaflets, giving presentations, and by everyday conversations with our peers. The main suggestions that we made were: to walk in the opposite direction of the oncoming cars, to walk in a single row rather than lines of a few people wide, to wear clothing with high visibility marks, to use the torches on our smartphones or small portable ones, and most importantly, to be as cautious as possible when outside campus, hence as participants of the traffic.
Since we cannot really impact the way Chinese people drive, due to lacking decisive power as well as resources to implement proper cultural driving courses, we had to focus on our local community, the students at our college. We focused on raising the awareness of our peers through both daily conversations and small campaigns. The conversations were very spontaneous and therefore it could be said most effective; we constantly reminded our friends to walk along the street in an ordered manner (in a row rather than in a wide horizontal line) as well as increase their caution of the cars going around them. We aimed at achieving the second one by specifically putting emphasis on not going along the streets with headphones on, as it is very dangerous. Moreover, we have shown to our friends that reflective vests are very cheap on the Chinese eBay (Taobao) and encouraged them to buy these, as the expense of less than $2 can save their life during evening walks and there no lanterns along the road. To tackle this problem we have also promoted carrying around torches or small head lights, which not only allow students to be visible to the cars but can also help the students better see the road in front of them. Apart from that, we have pointed out to them that going out alone is not a wise idea, either. We have also emphasized that in order to increase safety is important to avoid walking on the road itself and rather walk on the grassy shoulder. In general, we believe that the actions that we have taken are improving the safety of our peers; we can show that from the following: none of our classmates have been run-over since the previously mentioned incident, when going out we see more and more people walking in a row rather than a broad horizontal line, and lastly, after sunset there are dramatically more students who wear reflective marks and carry torches. The areas that still need improvement, and we will be working towards, are narrowing down the people who walk, or to be more precise jog, with headphones.