I did one of my most unfavorite things in Beijing today—spent an hour in a cab on the Third Ring Road traversing from the east side of town to the west side of town between 5 and 6pm. Dreadful. In theory, these famous ring roads (which all other cities are imitating and rushing to build) are supposed to be expressyways, which only means that there are no intersections or stoplights, only entrances and exits. I dont’ say ramps, because they are just openings that allow cars to jump on and off. Unfortunately these are about 10 yards apart, so the cars coming on and off have to fight over the same piece of real estate. And, to increase the fun factor, bus stops are located right past these entrances and exits. Well, you can imagine the bottleneck that is created. And in a city where there are 1000 new cars added to the road every month…..you get the picture.
My appointment on the other side of town ended at 5pm, and I had to meet some friends near my place for dinner at 6, so I had no choice but to climb into a taxi and settle in for the misery of what I knew was going to be 50-60 minutes of stop and go, stop and go. The driver was very nice and patient (most cabbies in Beijing are nice), and had the radio on to pick up the regular traffic reports.
I listened in, trying always to improve my listening comprehension. I’ve learned the words for traffic jam, detour, accident (to name a few) that way. Today I learned a new phrase– ting ting zou zou–when the announcer described the traffic conditions on the Third Ring Road. Literally translated, it is "stop stop go go." She got it right on that one!!