Saturday, 10 September 2011

Beijing On Foot: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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The Good
  • Most of the city is laid out on a grid pattern, making for easy navigation
  • Many streets are tree- lined
  • The risk of crime is pretty low, if you exclude the risk of being scammed, in any number of imaginative ways
  • Some streets are pedestrianised, although many of the more recent ones are just outdoor linear malls
  • Wandering around what's left of the old hutongs, where traffic is restricted by the architecture and the often winding lanes
  • Plenty of free public toilets, a legacy of the time when many of the old hutong houses had no plumbing
  • The extensive subway network, for when the walking gets too much
  • The few Blue Sky Days, when the white haze gives way to sunshine and clear air
The Bad
  • The sheer physical scale - it's a huge, sprawling city, the Los Angeles of Asia (complete with smog), so distances for walkers can be daunting
  • The quantity of motor traffic, and the speed, pollution and noise it produces
  • A series of humongous ring roads and expressways, with torrents of traffic which can require annoying and sometimes hazardous detours
  • In summer it’s hot, humid and  hazy. In winter it's cold, windy....and hazy
  • Sudden lack of access due to closure of footways, seemingly for 'security' reasons
  • Pavements not always in a good state of repair, and there are many hazards to watch out for, such as impromptu mechanic's workshops on the footway
  • Pavement parking - drivers seem to see the footway as an extension of the road, only with fewer restrictions
  • The destruction of much of historical Beijing, which has taken with it much of the sense of place
  • Hard- to-fathom bus system, with distance-related fares
The Ugly
  • Constant need to avoid prodigious amount of spitting - either ground level results, or airborne expectorations
  • Some gross smells emanating from side alleys

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