Last Sunday, as you know, I purchased an electric scooter for 2100¥ ($420), which had a range of 50-60km and top speed of 55km/h (previously thought 69, but it's governed).
On the first day, I took it on a 40km trip, then the next day, returned back home and did some running around. Within the past week, I've been running all over the city with it for everything. It's like a car, without all the costs and so much more fun! You might not think so, but it's actually quite the chick magnet, and a surprising number haven't had a ride on the back! What easier public way to get cozy with someone than to zip around town while the two of you are crammed together?
The driving situation here is vastly different and greatly demonstrates the Chinese mindset of "getting ahead by whichever means possible".
When I first arrived in China, I was baffled to see just how many driving maneuvers people could pull off! People, bikes, scooters and cars are vying for a path across the intersection. Some stopping in the middle of intersections as wide as 10 lanes across in adjacent directions (4 going east, 4 west, 1 scooter lane east, 1 scooter lane west - same for north and south).
Here are a few of the lessons I've learned within the week of driving my electric scooter:
1. Road rules are more like suggestions, dido for traffic lanes, and are rarely enforced by police.
2. A one-way sign reads more like "mostly a one-way".
3. Very few bikes, scooters or other solo vehicles have turning indicators or lights.
4. (This is a personal rule) I don't complete more risky maneuvers unless accompanied by locals. This reduces risk by having a group and thus being seen easier, but also strength in numbers, vehicle drivers give more space to a group of solo riders.
5. Noting #4, you need to be ready to take advantage of an opening at any moment. This means not taking out your cell phone at the light and paying attention to traffic and when locals are about to jump off the line.
6. Be very wary of going around a vehicle on their right hand side. Passengers could be exiting, coming onto the road, the vehicle may not be signalling a right hand turn or some other object is obstructing your/their path.
7. One of the safest things you can do for yourself and others, contrary to NA driving, is keep moving. The moment you stop, you'll get rear ended, cause someone behind you to swerve and cause other personal exposure. And if nothing else, everyone will honk at you causing some disorientation.
8. Keep your hand on the throttle, break and horn. The horn is equally essential here to let people now of your proximity. The horn is not as negatively viewed here (for short honks), as is in NA. A long honk means someone is pissed.
9. Literally keep your eyes aware in all directions because people and vehicles and solo vehicles are coming at all directions. People J-walking, kitty crossing, going the "wrong" direction, coming from the side, passing you, randomly stopping and avoiding pot holes etc happen with much more frequency here than in Toronto.
10. Don't get distracted! There are so many beautiful girls here, and almost all girls dress very fashionably, don't check them out while driving - the sheer quantity and degree of variables changes so frequently it's a mental workout to gauge the trajectories of moving objects/people and keep safe, don't let a short skirt or open top be the reason you get hurt.
11. "Waiting your turn" does not apply here. Mostly because there are so many people who don't obey road rules, because they see it as a means to get ahead, you will literally sit there all day. You must make your own path, force your way through, people will slow down a little, they may slightly move out of the way, and it's your responsibility to force them too!
12. Riding on the freeway isn't as stupid as it sounds here and is fairly common (see earlier post discussing highway speeds, automated ticketing systems etc.). The main reason is the speed limit is strongly enforced at 80km/h by multiple cameras every few kilometres which auto-ticket you, among other things. It's be like riding the scooter on a two lane highway with a speed limit of 80km/h in Canada - nbd.
All-in-all, the experience has been great! I enjoy the scooter, haven't had any safety issues. It's so liberating having the mobility and independence of the scooter. Within the past week, I've taken it out at least once a day, had I taken the same trips with a taxi, I'd have spent will over 500¥ even within this past week (approximately 25% of the total cost). My building has a dedicated, indoor bike storage area with electrical outlets included for charging over night. I look forward to the adventures I'll have being able to explore much further distances around Tianjin with almost no additional cost (perhaps marginal maintenance).