Chinese Freeways are finally Free…Sort of…

It’s Golden Week here in China, which means that the entire country has been given the week off to celebrate National Day (today, October 1), the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Before 1999, everyone got a three-day holiday.  But that year, in order to mark the PRC’s 50th year, and to stimulate the economy, the government suddenly announced that henceforth the holiday would be 7 days long and that they expected all Chinese to do their patriotic duty to the mother land by shopping and traveling.

I don’t know whether this Golden Week has had any long term impact on the economy, but it has made travel during this time a nightmare.

This week, with China’s economy slipping into a funk, the government decreed that China’s freeways (which are ALL toll roads) would be toll-free!  HEY ALL YOU NEW CAR OWNERS WHO DON’T REALLY KNOW HOW TO DRIVE…..HIT THE ROAD!

They did, and this is what ensued yesterday, the first day of the holiday — the freeways (especially around the major cities) turned into parking lots.

“This is great,” one taxi driver said to me as we sped (yes, SPED) along the 2nd Ring Road. “For once there are no traffic jams in the center of the city. Everyone has fled to the countryside and now they’re sitting in jams out there.”

Then he threw back his head and laughed.

I sure hope it’s not like this when I take some visitors to the mountains tomorrow!

Image source: Tea Leaf Nation