Commuters Brave Rickety River Ferry to Avoid Beijing Traffic Jams

By Justine Lopez, March 23, 2017

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We all know that Beijing’s traffic is bad. But is it bad enough to risk driving your car onto a rickety little ferry and shuttle across a river to get to work faster?

Well, apparently for some commuters, it totally is. 

Many employees who work in Beijing but live in neighboring cities are using a makeshift ferry to cross the Chaobai River – which divides Beijing and Hebei – all in the hopes of shaving some time off their commutes, South China Morning Post reports. 

But while the ferry might save time, it doesn’t necessarily look like the safest option. 

The ferry is run by a man named Li Lian and crosses a 50-meter section of the river in roughly a minute. But there is a catch: the ferry only holds one car at a time. Even so, some claim that the ferry cuts an hour off of their commute times.

That being said it does look a little sketchy. This is less of a traditional ferry, and more like a raft created from two small metal boats connected by a wood plank. 

Because the ferry doesn’t have an engine the operator must manually pull it across the river using a metal cord. Li doesn’t work alone, however. He and his partner both work 12 hours a day and earn RMB3,000 a month. They charge customers RMB10 (one way) to cross the river. 

Li has been operating the ferry for over three decades, and four generations of his relatives ran the ferry before him.  

The humble operation has received a flurry of attention in the past few days after a man named Wang Bin highlighted his experience on social media. Instead of taking the traffic-riddled highway that connects Beijing with Yanjiao, he opted to cross along the Chaobai River. According to Wang, traffic at the Baimiao checkpoint can take up to an hour during rush hour but the river crossing took mere minutes. 

It is estimated that over 300,000 people commute between Yanjiao and Bejing every day. And quite a few know about Li’s secret bypass. 

“People have no alternative route into the city except coming to me,” Li said.

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