CARPOCALYPSE in China

We all know that traffic can be dreadful during the holidays, but thousands of people in China experienced what can only be described as ...

We all know that traffic can be dreadful during the holidays, but thousands of people in China experienced what can only be described as CARPOCALYPSE last Tuesday, as they were heading home at the end of the National Day Golden Week – an annual seven-day holiday at the start of October. Motorists found themselves stuck on Tuesday in stagnant traffic on the G4 Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expessway, which on normal days is already one of the country’s busiest thoroughfares. The culprit was a new checkpoint that forced the 50-lane traffic to merge into just 20, and the situation was exacerbated by foggy weather.

Throughout the duration of the congestion, people passed the time playing cards while food vendors in the vicinity took advantage of the situation to raise the prices of their wares. A driver told the Inner Mongolia Morning Post that if customers complained about the inflated prices or said “no”, the vendors “threaten to break your (wind)shields”.

Actually, this was not the most ridiculous traffic jam that China has experienced. In 2010, a 74-mile gridlock that occurred between the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Beijing left motorists stranded in what essentially had transformed into a massive parking lot for TWELVE days! Motorists could only move their cars a distance of one kilometre each day! The authorities blamed it on road construction and increased traffic of heavy-duty trucks.

We are probably inclined to tsk tsk at the inefficient management and insufficient infrastructure of the roads in China. But digging around the Internet, we found that the longest traffic jam in history actually occurred in France. In February 1980, as holidaymakers returned from their skiing holiday, traffic was backed up on the French Autoroute for 109 miles! We imagine that the motorists needed another holiday to get over the disastrous end of their holiday.

More recently, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where it is already notorious for severe traffic jams, the city hit a new high (not in a good way) on June 2009, when an accumulated 182 miles of congestion was recorded. The rising economy and income of the city has led to the introduction of about 1000 new vehicles on the road daily.

Unfortunately, traffic jams are inevitable until we adopt better ways of getting from place to place. So, we had better keep some emergency rations in the car and perhaps a She-Wee for the ladies, in preparation for the next carpocalypse.


Image: Reuters via Citylab

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