Traffic in Shanghai

When writer Tara Russell visited the busy Chinese city of Shanghai and witnessed the commotion of city streets filled with bicycles and traffic. In the midst of an accident, the scene is startingly familiar to what one might witness on a street in downtown Boston or New York. However, Russell points out in her article A Day in the Life – Taxicab Drama that in Shanghai everyone weighs in on fault in the case of an accident.

“Catching a glimpse from ahead, I notice that what began as a small cluster of people in front of the stopped vehicles has quickly grown to a rather substantial crowd gathered in the middle of the street. In fact, people kept coming from every direction.

I asked my taxi driver if he had seen what had occurred. He disgustedly recounted the event. “The stupid driver hit the man on the bicycle. The policeman is here to end the argument.”

Interesting. My taxicab driver had obviously sided with the bicyclist, despite the fact that he too was a driver. One of many unique things about China: the rights of the bicycler seem to outweigh those of the vehicle operator.

The driver continued to explain, “All the people are coming to give their opinion of what happened.” As quickly as he had finished these words, he too was shouting at the top of his lungs, poking his head from the window in order to vocalize his thoughts on the situation.

Another interesting comment. A vast array of observers was gathering at the scene. Some appeared to be passing bicyclers, others wandering to the dispute seemed to be pedestrians, but the most intriguing participating bunch was those emerging from the shops and small residences lining the streets. None of these people, however, seemed to have first handedly witnessed the accident.”