Riding into a construction site here isn’t uncommon. In fact, if you got any measurable explorer’s bone in your body and regularly scout out new roads, then riding here means consistent jaunts through something being built. It comes as no surprise, considering a huge portion of the economy is propped up by construction and government funded infrastructure projects. I’ve written before on the speed of change in China. As a recreational cyclist, the routes you choose here are subjected to regular adaptation or elimination. Most recently, CDCX was ultimately forced to take on a wholly new route. A last minute police checkpoint, thrown up to prevent people, such as myself, from willy-nilly entering the mayhem of construction, kiboshed 80% of the route.
That doesn’t paint the whole story, though. Construction is so common and accepted that people avoid it on the basis that it’s an additional nuisance. The police checkpoint was an unusual thing. I’d ridden through the same area a half dozen times, a few weeks prior, without encountering a semblance of security. That’s how most sites are. Often times you’ll run into a security gate, or a hastily constructed fence, but this kind of security is entirely non-comprehensive. Securing a construction area means blocking the main point of entry and forgetting every other little intersecting road, trail, or foot path. Cutting through a construction site is easy. It’s interesting, strange, fun, and awe-inspiring. Finding yourself ripping down the gravel foundation for a new 10-lane highway is bizarre and thrilling, because you know before long it’s just going to be another bullshit freeway. If you knew the area before construction started, you get a firsthand glimpse at the scale of some of these projects.
You’re also in for a treat, if you happen to run into anyone else on the site. The police checkpoint I mentioned before? After blithely explaining why I needed to enter the no-go zone, they suggested I go the long way round, but agreeing with my logic to shortcut via the police blockade, grudgingly let me pass. You can sort of ignore the rules, then squeeze an earnest conversation out of your startled, former obstructors.
Such was today while riding. I found myself on a newly minted highway. I’d come upon it after taking a small little offshoot road, with nary a sign or indicator that there was no getting through. It came to a bridge that stood between myself and the road I wanted to get to. Unfinished, I started across the bridge anyway, where I was met by a friendly worker. He warned me the bridge was unfinished. He wasn’t joking; The far side of the bridge ended in a 10m drop off to the earth below. “There’s a staircase, you can take though!” he cheerfully encouraged. Free as a bird.
The only odd thing is coming to these security gates from the inside. Those guarding them are dutifully trained: No one, other than those employed at this site, shall cross the gate. It’s a binary way of approaching the job’s singular duty. This means on occasion, despite being on the wrong side, asking to get out I’ve been plainly refused. “You can only go through if you work here.” This is where the universally useful strategy of ignoring the hell out of someone’s command must be exercised. Again, free as a bird, off to sniff out another dirt pile cum factory park.
For some reason, I enjoy these little incursions into areas I feel I should be disallowed. I get a giggly adrenaline rush. My own surprise, to be riding the forbidden, is outshined by the wild-eyed looks and cheerful conversations from workers who have no idea how I ended up there. The only thing that could make the whole thing less believable, would be to pick up a riveter and sit in, side-by-side, helping out. I should probably stick to plain ol’ ride throughs, though.