Changing China

Giant on the move

Pounding the pavement

June 30, 2008

No matter how many records are broken or who takes home the most gold at the Beijing Games, one group of people will stick around as some of the city’s greatest unsung heroes: its traffic wardens.

Posted at hundreds of intersections across the city, these men and women have the thankless task of trying to bring a bit more order to Beijing’s infamously chaotic streets.

Traffifc Warden in Beijing

Armed with only flags, whistles and their own zeal, they try with varying degrees of success to prevent particularly pedestrians and cyclists from flouting the rules. (Without any real authority, they have to leave cars to the cops.)  

Some stick to a crisp blow of a whistle and wave of the flag, bringing cyclists to a halt at red lights, then waving them on as if for the start of a race when they turn back to green.

Others cajole, chatting up pedestrians on the virtues of waiting one’s turn or cracking jokes with regular passersby. And then there are the shouters, who take their jobs so seriously they jeer jaywalkers for their lack of civilised behaviour and the potential danger they’re creating.  

In a way, they’re the ones who deserve a medal, breathing in the often noxious air day by day as they grapple head-on with the widespread disregard for traffic rules, trying to raise awareness with every wave of the flag, every whistle, every red light.

Picture by David Gray


Those guys should wear some kind of mask. They are unfortunately going to get very sick from breathing all of that pollution.


nice post!I saw them everyday on my way to work. Thanks for writing about them.

Posted by Linda | Report as abusive

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