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2nd Ring Road
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2nd Ring Road

Central to Beijing, the 2nd Ring Road lies just a few kilometres away from the city centre and is an extremely convenient, if not somewhat congested, ring road. It actually comprises of two parts: the original ring road (southern part now no longer part of the current-day ring road), and the new extended ring road. This article considers the 2nd Ring Road as the old ring road plus the new ring road, minus the original southern ring road.

Table of contents
1 History and Geography
2 Road conditions
3 Links to Expressways

History and Geography

Much of the 2nd Ring Road is built on the site of the former Beijing city walls, as can be referenced by their names. Most are named after gates, a few of which are still (fortunately) standing to this day. These include Xibianmen, Dongbianmen, Deshengmen and Yongdingmen (which is being recreated). Large segments of the former city walls were pulled down just after the People's Republic was established.

Traffic lights disappeared in the 1990s, and several new overpasses were built in the early 1990s. The 2nd Ring Road became the city's first ring road without traffic lights.

In 2001, the 2nd Ring Road was given a facial remake, which also included a complete re-doing of the road surface. Additionally, "greenification" and the planting of more trees, shrubs and plants, have also been completed.

The Old 2nd Ring Road

The former "old 2nd Ring Road" was ring-shaped (or rather ellipse-shaped). It went through Xizhimen in the northwest, Dongzhimen in the northeast, Dongbianmen in the southwest and Xibianmen in the southwest. The southern part was on what is now known as the southern stretch of the "Metro Road"; it went through Qianmen, which was at the southern end of Tian'anmen Square.

The New 2nd Ring Road

Extend the western and eastern legs of the original 2nd Ring Road beyond Dongbianmen and Xibianmen, thus relocating its southeasternmost point to Zuo'anmen, and its southwesternmost point to the complex Caihuying overpass complex, and you get the new 2nd Ring Road. It was also known for a while as the external 2nd Ring Road, though this term is becoming more and more of a rarity these days. The current 2nd Ring Road has its southern segment run through Zuo'anmen and Caihuying instead of through the road passing through Qianmen.

Gates and the 2nd Ring Road

The 2nd Ring Road passes through a variety of the old city gates around Beijing before they were demolished in the 1950s. Notable gates include:

Of these, only Deshengmen, Dongbianmen and Xibianmen are still standing. Yongdingmen will soon be recreated.

Road conditions

Surface conditions

When it was first opened, road conditions, at first, were adequate. What appeared to be an adequately drivable part of the ring road in the 1980s, however, looked to be in horrible shape as the 21st century dawned.

The ring road, which was built to accommodate only low traffic, was totally unprepared. Before the 2001 rebuild, the ring road in some sections gave an uncomfortable bumpy ride. Parts of the road, in terms of aesthestics, were also poor. In 2001, the ring road underwent a massive face-lift. Now, the ring road's surface has been completely revamped, and is a pleasure to drive on.

Centralised location

Being extremely central, the 2nd Ring Road is also the source of transportation bottlenecks, the kind of which seems staggering to imagine. In fact, the current road conditions are better than the previous conditions!

Nevertheless, traffic jams are common on the 2nd Ring Road. Being linked at present to no immediate expressways, it is also difficult to "escape". When the traffic allows, speed limit is 80 km/h. Watch out for speed checks and cameras, as they are incredibly frequent and do swing into action! (Hint: the dreaded cameras hide under bridges and some electronic displays.)

Traffic jams

Traffic jams on the 2nd Ring Road have become a daily fact of life for Beijingers. Nevertheless, the intensity of the treacherous jams varies.

The northern stretch between Andingmen and Xiaojie Bridge is often jammed, as is the part of the road around Deshengmen. The northern parts of the eastern and western 2nd Ring Road can become a temporary parking lot when traffic gets tough. The southern segments of these road sections fare better.

Less frequently jammed and often extremely fluid-like traffic can be found at the southern stretch of the 2nd Ring Road from Caihuying through Zuo'anmen.

Road condition monitors

Electronic message signs (or displays) are spread throughout the 2nd Ring Road, displaying information on the current traffic flow. At present, it is only given in simplified Chinese characters.

The western segment of the 2nd Ring Road has "smart" electronic displays which automatically update every five minutes. Traffic conditions are continuously monitored. A map appears on the displays, indicating road conditions at various parts of the road. To see this in action, approach Jishuitan in an anticlockwise direction, where you'll see such a display in action. (An image of this is shown on this article).

Although the Chinese characters may not make sense to foreign drivers, the characters are colour coded. Green indicates traffic jam-free flow; yellow indicates reduced traffic flow; red indicates the dreaded traffic jams.

Links to Expressways

At present no expressways begin from the 2nd Ring Road. There are no direct connections to the Jingshen Expressway, Jingjintang Expressway or Jingcheng Expressway. A direct connection is being worked on for the Airport Expressway.

You can get to the Jingshi Expressway by heading south-west at Guang'anmen. The Jingkai Expressway is easily accessible by proceeding south at the complex-and-impressive Caihuying overpass. Jianguomen links with the Jingtong Expressway and the Jingha Expressway, while you can access the Badaling Expressway by heading north at Deshengmen.