10 Surprises for an Englishman on the Street in China

1. There are textured paving stones on the pavement to indicate the direction of the path and junctions with the road for those with sight difficulties. They’re also there on the Metro!
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Surprising as the city seems generally pretty unfriendly for disabled people. Very few ramps, no low-entry or wheelchair friendly buses, poor maintenance of footpaths, often the footpaths being blocked etc forcing pedestrians to walk in the road.

2. A Starbucks’ Cappuccino Grande will set you back at least 30rmb (£3.25). It must be the high wages that are being paid in China. NOT! And in the airport it’ll be more than double that!

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3. The PA on the Shanghai Metro (and the new one in Changsha) is in both Chinese AND English (yay)!

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4. Stepping out of the Metro in Shanghai the first thing I saw was a Victorian church and other English styled buildings. Where am I?

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5. ‘Mind the gap’ is there on the Shanghai Metro too. Not just on London’s Tube!

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6. Shanghai Metro tends to travel in straight lines instead of meandering all over the place as on London’s deep Tube lines, is smooth, and has ‘normal’ sized railway carriages unlike the ‘mini’ claustrophobic carriages on most of London’s Tube. It’s also got a huge network and is cheap (5rmb – 55p – from airport to city centre). The stations are large and the passages are wide. They need to be. There are 28 million in Shanghai!

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7. The MagLev line to Pudong International Airport travels at 300km/hr. They’re also building one in Changsha to serve the airport, but it’s shorter and not so fast.

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It’s not perfectly smooth but as good as most high speed trains.

8. You are quite likely to be run down by an electric bike (rather like a scooter) when walking on the path marked for pedestrians. Cars park on the section marked for bikes! For the same reason many pedestrians choose to walk in the road; it’s safer!

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9. A traffic light controlled pedestrian crossing is a good place to get killed as a pedestrian when the light is green for walkers. Often you will have to cross one lane at a time and hope that there’s a break in traffic to get across the next lane. Likewise at intersections a green pedestrian light indicates that you are unlikely to be killed by cars coming straight across the junction, but will be killed by traffic turning right as they have permission ‘if it is safe to do so’.

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10. Electric bikes appear to have a dispensation to ignore all traffic regulations especially the ones indicating the direction of flow! And on the highway, there don’t appear to be any rules governing lane behaviour for any vehicle. While traffic generally does not speed (as in the UK) it’s very difficult to predict what another motorist will do.

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