Sunday, 4 March 2018

traffic jam

You don’t expect to encounter traffic jams out in the country, but that is precisely what Paula and I had to negotiate while out cycling yesterday. The location was the junction of Ma Tso Lung Road and Ho Sheung Heung Road, indicated by the red circle on the map below:

We had approached the junction along the road that joins Ho Sheung Heung Road—the major road here—a few metres southwest of the junction. When I described this road in Serendipity #2), I wrote that there is no traffic on it, but I could see there was a problem ahead.

The proximal cause of the blockage was a truck with a mounted grab bucket on the main road. Oblivious to the chaos it was causing, it was picking up rubbish from a collection point next to the cul de sac opposite Ma Tso Lung Road.

I’m often amazed at how easy it is to dispose of unwanted goods in Hong Kong, at least in the rural areas. Every village has a central collection point with a suitable number of wheelie bins (US: ‘dumpsters’), which are emptied daily, including Sundays. These are used for regular domestic garbage. However, next to the wheelie bins, people can leave stuff they don’t want, including bulky items such as furniture. I don’t know whether this discarded material is cleared at regular intervals, or whether employees of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, who are based at the collection point, simply call head office when a sufficient quantity of rubbish has accumulated and needs to be taken away, but the vehicle used is a high-sided truck with a hydraulic grab bucket.

In my own village, this operation can be carried out without any disruption to traffic, but this is a matter of where the collection point is located. Whoever thought it was a good idea to locate it next to a road that carries a lot of industrial traffic is an idiot. The cul de sac opposite Ma Tso Lung Road, only a few metres away, is the obvious choice.

Of course, this truck was not the only cause of confusion. This is a view of Ma Tso Lung Road from the cul de sac:

The green truck that has turned left cannot proceed, because there is a parked vehicle ahead, and as the photo shows, traffic is backed up on Ma Tso Lung Road, so there is no room to avoid the obstruction. The back of the truck picking up rubbish is on the left.

This is the view looking southwest along Ho Sheung Heung Road:

I’m bound to say that had I been driving the car immediately behind the truck turning left, I’d have tried to drive around it. It looks as if there’s enough room to get through, but as a cyclist encountering cars on narrow roads, my observation is that most drivers in Hong Kong don’t know how wide their vehicles are.

But as the next photo (looking northeast along Ho Sheung Heung Road) shows, the road ahead is clear:

British readers will have spotted the yellow markings on the road, which indicate a ‘box junction’—a throwback to colonial days. I’d be surprised if most drivers nowadays know that they are not supposed to enter unless their exit is clear, although the blue truck in the previous photo is obeying the rule.

Of course, being on a bike, I figured that it should be possible to reach the cul de sac—the start of ‘long tall sally’—without any problems, and in fact the only delay, very slight, was because I wanted to take some photos.

And the only question I have is this: where were the police?

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