Saturday, September 13, 2008

Paralympics --- Two Games, Equally Exciting I : Parking, Parking, Everywhere

Back in Beijing, after a short trip to Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Didn’t think I would miss being in the hustle and bustle of Olympic crazed capital city, but so glad to be back in the be-drizzled 'Jing.

During the few days we were away, the city said goodbye to the Olympic athletes from 200 nations, and prepared to welcome the Paralympic athletes. The new slogan was unveiled: 两个奥运,同样精彩!(“Two Olympic Games, Equally Exciting” is my own alliterated translation. ‘Same Splendor’ just sounded too pompous to me.) The Olympic Village was officially renamed “Disability Olympic Village.” (The Chinese translation for the Paralympic Games is 残奥会, or more precisely, the Olympics for the Disabled.) The various Olympic traffic lanes now have newly installed signposts with the 3 color Paralympics logo declaring ‘IBC/MPC’ or ‘Reserved for Disabled Olympics’. The one reminder of the Olympics was the 5 Ring Olympics logo painted directly on the various restricted-traffic lanes (besides the endless replays of Team China vs. whoever is in her way on CCTV-5).

Since it was way past midnight when we got in, I didn’t notice some of the other improvements until the next morning when we went for a short walk around the neighborhood. First, there were only a few cars parked on the sidewalks. You may ask, why would there be cars parked on the sidewalks? Initially, I thought that people had taken their cars out for weekend outings, but then my wife noticed the freshly appeared short metallic stumps (in yellow and black bee stripe colors) that now prevented cars from driving directly onto the sidewalks. You see, the sidewalks along both sides of the road that passes our apartment complex is flush with the road. In fact, the sidewalks are level with the cycling lane, which is separated (by planted bushes) from the 4 lane main road (2 lanes in either direction). In the past, many drivers have presumed that this means they can drive onto the sidewalks and park there. Thus the sidewalks have been turned into parking lots that allowed parking for free.

My wife had actually complained about this a few times. The first time she called the local traffic police station, the officer who listened to her complaint told her that they did not have enough personnel to police this. The second time, she was told that there was no law against parking on pedestrian sidewalks and hence they could not ticket these cars!

On our stroll, we ran into the guys who were putting in the stumps. These guys go around these streets and look for ‘spots’ where the previously parked vehicle had pulled out and then put in the anti-parking stumps. They kept on hearing complaints. There were those who said they cannot possibly do this, as this took away their ‘benefits’ (of free parking!). There was an old man who told them that one driver was on out-of-town business and wouldn’t be back for weeks. Occasionally, the stump crew would find that they did not come soon enough after a car had left; in the interim, another driver would find and park in the ‘spot’. My wife suggested that they just bar all the remaining cars in and then leave notes on these cars to let the owners know whom to call to be let out. But the crew wouldn't go for that...

Over the last 2+ weeks, the number of parked cars has gone from over 50 to over 20 to 10 to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and has been stuck at ONE for the last week. The ONE, the last offending vehicle, presumably driven by somebody on out-of-town business, is a silver Citroen Elysee, has the license plate 京 J19352 (京 for Beijing), and is parked just east of the side gate of our building complex.

In the mean time, one of my wife's predictions came true. So where would people park now? Certainly not in the parking lots around our neighborhood. So they are parking in the cycling lanes and right lanes. But at least the sidewalks are back to being sidewalks...

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