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Shanghai Police Formed "Human Brakes" to Stop Jaywalking

2017-10-11 19:22:07 Hayley Liu

Videos showing dozens of police protected pedestrians at a bustling intersection in Shanghai during the Chinese National Holiday have gone viral on Chinese Internet. Internet users praised the police for being “reliable" and "charming", and described this means of crossing the road as "unique" and "only to be seen in China." The videos have been posted by Chinese national media outlets like The Beijing News, China Daily and people.cn, attracting thousands of comments on social media platform Weibo.

The videos were shot at an intersection on Nanjing Road, a premier shopping location in Shanghai that starts at the iconic riverfront promenade known as the Bund in the east and ends in the west at the junction of Jing'an Temple. Today it is a must-see metropolitan destination drawing thousands of tourists and fashion seekers from all over the world. The road is bustling with people during holidays and peak season.

Police were seen in the videos standing in two lines along the zebra crossings on the left and right of the intersection respectively when pedestrian lights turned green. Hundreds of tourists crossed the street in flocks. As the lights turned red, about a minute later, police automatically formed four lines and guarded each opening to prevent pedestrians from jaywalking. The whole process was so efficient that Internet users called the police "human brakes".

Police stood in two lines along the zebra crossings.

Many commentators said the videos astonished them, having never seen a scene like that before, and police were seen to have looked after pedestrians well. But more felt ashamed that Chinese people needed police to risk their lives to prevent jaywalking. "Isn't this frustrating and sad?" one asked, another commented "if everyone abides by the rules, we won't need to place such burdens on the police".

The scene reminded lots of people of the stampede that astounded the whole country on New Year's Eve in 2015. The tragedy happened at the Bund when huge crowds trying to reach the New Year countdown became embroiled in a stampede killing 36 people and injuring 49 others. It marked one of the biggest disasters to befall a major Chinese city in recent years. Some Weibo users explained that police were arranged to prevent traffic violations during festivals and holidays in order to avoid similar disasters from happening again.

"I guess that many people have forgotten about the stampede on New Year's Eve in 2015. Since then the Shanghai authorities have arranged police to form human walls and prevent similar tragedies from happening again. They are not there every day, only during holidays and peak seasons."

But it's not to say that the Chinese disregard for traffic rules is not to be blamed. In fact, high rates of pedestrian non-compliance contribute to a high proportion of traffic accidents in China. There is even a name for pedestrian violations - "crossing the road in Chinese-style". An online comment went viral years ago explaining that crossing the street in China has nothing to do with whether the lights are red or green. The determining factor is how many people are waiting on the curb. Once a crowd has reached critical mass, it moves.

Nowadays more Chinese people are aware of the mistakes and attribute jaywalking to a national short-sightedness or lack of principles. But some argue that the high incidence of jaywalking reflects the government's lack of attention to pedestrian rights. Even though yielding to pedestrians is required by law, drivers rarely do so. Chinese jaywalking is thus a kind of collective action to force cars to stop.

Actual brakes are installed at the intersection of Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province in North China.

Volunteers dance at intersections in Beijing to prevent jaywalking.

A string has beenused Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia. Compared with previous measures, this is much more common in China.

In recent years, the Chinese government has taken various measures to tackle traffic violations. Many provinces have passed regulations so that pedestrians caught crossing the street during a red light or crossing outside of the crosswalk will be fined.

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