Thursday, December 30, 2010

Traffic Jams and CDs

Traffic in Beijing is a nightmare.

The government estimates that 2,000 new cars hit the road every DAY. That means about 800,000 new cars joined the roads in 2010. That means I spend a lot of time at traffic lights looking at other people's license plates. Lately I've noticed a new phenomenon - the CD over the license plate trick.

Why would anyone do that, you might ask?

To avoid the traffic controls. The controls are based on the last digit of your license plate, so if your last digit is a 1 or a 6, you can't drive in the city on Wednesdays. 2s and 7s can't drive on Thursdays, and so on.

The idea is to take 20% of the cars off the roads every day of the week but guess what? It didn't work out that way. Lots of people like to have a license plate with the number 8 in it because they think it's lucky. So on the day the Lucky 8s are banned from the roads there is considerably less traffic for the rest of us.

File that under "To Talk About At Next Cocktail Party".

Some people find these traffic controls cramp their style so they simply cover the last digit of their license plate on the day they're not supposed to drive. A CD has apparently become the preferred medium. I have no idea why. If you do please leave me a comment.

I would think the police would pull over anyone who attempts this trick but based on the number of CDs I see every day, they don't.

On Dec. 24th the government instituted new measures that will reduce the number of new cars to 400,000 in 2011.

They should institute a crackdown on the people who cover their plates with CDs too. I would be happy to help out. If they would just give me a police woman hat and a note pad I could catch ten of these guys every day.

That's what I will be fantasizing about next time I'm stuck behind one of them at a red light.


Jupiter Family said...


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Unknown said...

In my city, people cover the majority of their license plates with CDs (not just the end numbers), and I don't think we even have traffic controls. I think it also has something to do with the traffic cameras not being able to read the plates as well/reflective medium. Of course, if all else fails, many just don't put plates on their cars at all - problem solved!

Melanie Gao said...

Kelly that's a good point - many people are using the CDs to evade traffic cameras. The police really should be stopping these folks.

Unknown said...

I don't know about in Beijing, but the traffic police here are laughable at best. If my boss gets pulled over for something, he just gives them his license and drives away - he knows guys at the police station, so it will end up on one of their desks and he'll get it back in a couple days, tops.
But having been in some Beijing traffic, I agree with you that it would be nice if people followed the controls!

Melanie Gao said...

Kelly what city are you in? I can't seem to access your Blogger profile.

Love the story about your boss. I'm thinking I could make fake copies of my license and try the same trick. The policemen would think I was a VIP. And some chief of police would eventually have stacks of copies of my license on his desk and would have no idea how to get them back to me... :)

Anonymous said...

You actually drive in China? You must have found a way to outdo the locals in the art of chaotic driving. (-:

Great blog, by the way. You seem so happy with your family and life in general.

Melanie Gao said...

Anon I used the "Frog in Hot Water" approach when I learned to drive in China. One day I'll post about that.

Thanks for appreciating my blog. :)

Unknown said...

I'm in Handan, Hebei - south of Beijing. And I don't have a blog (yet) or a blogger profile, so that might be why! ;)

Steve-O said...

Next time you're stopped at a light you should just get out of your car and take the CD off if you can. Brings a new definition to "Chinese fire drill"

Melanie Gao said...

Steve-O, you and I could be dangerous together. :)

Sarah said...

Wow! That's all I can say! The amount of new things I learn from reading your blog is amazing, Melanie! CDs on license plates and days when some plates are banned? It's stuff like this that makes me the queen of obscure, not-actually-relevant-in-my-day-to-day-life factoids. And with my memory, I'll probably be able to remember this long after I've forgotten my own. name! lol.

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Hi Melanie!
Just wanted to follow up - one of my New Year's resolutions this year was to start a blog, something I'd been toying with for a bit. Here's the link, and hope you enjoy it!

Melanie Gao said...

Sarah I love learning things from your blog as well! And I get a lot of inspiration from you. I'm looking forward to your posts in 2011. :)

Kelly I love your new blog - what a great way to start the new year!