NPR logo Nightmarish Nine-Day Traffic Jam: In China, Cars Crawl Along 60-Mile Stretch


Nightmarish Nine-Day Traffic Jam: In China, Cars Crawl Along 60-Mile Stretch

Vehicles drive on the road through the central business district in Beijing on August 4, 2010. A traffic jam on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway, stretching more than 62 miles, has lasted more than nine days. Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images

On a road trip once, two friends and I spent several hours in a traffic jam, baking under the summer sun. It was miserable.

We inched along the interstate, craning our necks out the windows, trying to figure out what caused the back-up. We watched the car's fuel gauge tick perilously close to "empty."

That was a bad bottleneck, but it's nothing compared to logjam in China.

According to China's state-run Global Times, "traffic authorities were still trying to cope with days-long congestion on a major national expressway, nine days after traffic slowed to a snail's pace."

That's right, the tie-up — which is 60 miles long! — has gone on for nine days.

Such circumstances call for creativity. To curb boredom, drivers and passengers are playing cards. Locals are hawking food — at a premium, Reuters reports.

Jamil Anderlini, deputy Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times, says the traffic jam on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway is "a sign of things to come."

"The other side-effects of China's scorching economic growth, from poisonous air to worsening income inequality, are already well-known to all who visit the country," he writes. "But traffic jams like this could become much more common as consumers — in what is now the world's largest car market — snap up more than 10 million vehicles a year."