The 1-2-3’s of Handling a Motorcycle Accident in China: The story of how I got rammed by a scooter during Beijing rush hour

Broken turn signal

Broken turn signal

I recently just got into my very first accident (with another vehicle at least), not just in China but ever. I suppose it was a matter of time though given the negligence of Chinese drivers. This accident however, luckily, was not with a car but with an electric scooter, with two riders, going the wrong way down a 6-lane road outside of my office. I figured I would take the opportunity to not only relate my experience but also help people who may also find themselves in this unfortunate situation some day.

I was pulling out of the driveway that was the exit from my office, after a full day of work on a Friday evening. As I mentioned, this was a 6 lane, very busy road, so the traffic moves fast, often, and without hesitation. So I stayed cautious, looking left to make sure the coast was clear until the oncoming traffic had all moved by when I started to pull out into the bus lane before fully accelerating into the road. I started to look right just before fully turning the throttle and shifting up when I noticed out of the corner of my eye two Chinese men barreling full speed the wrong way down the bus-lane and before I knew it I was on the ground in the middle of this very busy road in the middle of rush hour.

Twisted Front Fork of motorcycle after accident

You can see that the handlebars are pointed straight but the wheel is pointing left

My engine was still accelerating for a bit before it finally ground to a halt. I looked left down the road about 10 or 20 feet and there was the scooter and the two passengers laying on the ground. As they were driving full speed, they had driven right through the front of my bike ending on the other side and partially into the next lane over. The passenger got up quickly enough but the driver was looking around blankly with his leg under the bike. Seeing as how we were in the middle of the street, the first thing I did was get up (noticing that I wasn’t hurt) picked up my bike and moved it out of the way, noticing that the front fork was turned left off its axis, the turn signal was in pieces and gas was coming out of the top of the tank from the gas cap (I later learned that moving the bike first thing was probably the wrong thing to do, but more on that later). I tried to yell in Chinese at the driver of the scooter to get up but he continued to stare blankly turning to look at his leg occasionally. So I ran over to his scooter and moved it out of the middle of the road as well, which finally prompted him to get out of the road. This is about when the arguing started.

Scene of the accident

You can see the shirtless victim of our accident with his pant leg conveniently rolled up

I was surveying my bike when he started gesturing to his leg. I looked at it and could see that it was sufficiently battered and bloodied. Nothing looked broken however but he was feigning a bit of a limp, making sure to keep his pant leg rolled up so everyone could see the blood. In Chinese he started yelling at me, “What are you going to do about my leg? What are you going to do about my vehicle?” to which I would reply that it wasn’t my problem because he was driving down the wrong side of the road. At this point a curious crowd of Chinese was forming, intent on watching a foreigner arguing with a Chinese. A couple of locals chimed in in my defense telling him that I was right, he shouldn’t have been driving that way. One lady then realized this guy was hopeless and told me to call my insurance and the police and let them deal with it. I agreed and started to ignore my instigators’ continued yells, and first called my friend, David, who was still in the office above and whose Chinese was much better than mine.

While we waited, the crowd started to thin out. When David arrived, most of the people were gone other than a couple curious workers. David started to quickly survey the situation, got our sides of the stories, realized the guys on the scooter were not going to give in and called the cops (1-1-0 in China instead of 9-1-1). Just as David was calling, the driver of the scooter suddenly came over and started saying not to worry about it, just forget it, there was no need for the police. Odd given how insistent he had been 5 minutes earlier. After about 20 or 30 minutes the police car finally arrived. He first asked the other guy what had happened, to which he started explaining how he was driving down the road from the wrong direction when the cop immediately stopped him to ask again which way he was coming from, and when he got the same answer the cop just said, “So you were going down the wrong side of the road.” When the “but”s started coming the cop kept on interrupting emphasizing the obviousness of who was at fault. Soon the driver’s passenger piped in and started explaining how I was stopped at the exit as they were coming down the road and the cop again interrupted him and asked, “If he was stopped, how did he hit you?” And so, as quickly as they had been obstinately insisting on their innocence, the two on the scooter were quiet, with the driver curiously rolling his pant leg back down over his leg wound and the limp strangely starting to disappear.

My friend David, then asked the policeman out of curiosity who would take care of the repairs for my bike if it was indeed the other driver’s fault. To this the policeman took David aside and rather forcefully explained to us what the situation was. If I wanted to “go down that path” we would have to call my insurance, and since I was a motorcycle, which qualified as a car, and his a scooter, which qualified as a bike, it would be my insurance who would be responsible for all repairs and medical expenses. And this is how I got my lesson on “accident justice” in China.

Rule One:
Basically, in China, the bigger vehicle is always at fault. Had the other driver also been a motorcycle, he would have been entirely responsible for all repairs. However the rules don’t really cover the large range of sizes of vehicles that actually are on the road in China and thus you’re either classified as a car or a bike… and the bike always wins. My friend David had been in a similar situation a few years back where a bike literally ran into him while he was stopped. David got out of the car, helped him up and thought that was the end of it and went on his way. Soon he had been tracked down, the bike rider in a neck brace and David being charged with a hit and run. That brings us to the next rule…

Rule Two:
Don’t leave the scene of the accident, even if it looks like everyone is ok and you were not at fault. There can be serious repercussions for leaving, namely jail time from which the only escape is paying off the victim (In David’s case, the rider of the bike wanted 20,000 RMB which is about $3,000 USD. They managed to bargain him down to 3,000 RMB). When you’ve been in an accident, make sure you stick around and call the cops, which in China is 1-1-0.

Rule Three:
Be prepared for your argument. The mistake I made was thinking about safety first and getting us all out of the street. What I should have done was taken pictures of the whole scene exactly as it happened. Many people won’t even move the vehicles until the cops have arrived (this, in my opinion, is a major cause of much of Beijing’s congestion: stopped cars in the middle of busy intersections waiting for the police to arrive on the scene). Second, I should have gotten the phone numbers of a couple of witnesses. I was hoping they would stick around long enough and felt bad asking them to stay any longer than they needed to, but what I should have done is made sure we could contact them if the cops needed witnesses if our stories didn’t corroborate.

In the end, I was very lucky. If the other driver had been even a little more informed he would’ve known about the “car v. bike” situation, and would have pushed harder for compensation. I was also lucky as not only did I not have insurance, which the cop hinted he assumed to be the case, but since my license plate had been previously stolen, I had no physical plate nor a proper driver’s license. None of these the police officer made any effort to investigate, probably because of the paper work it would entail for him. But all of the these things, had the other driver been observant enough to recognize could have meant trouble for me, including large payouts, a large amount of time spent at hospitals as I would have to personally escort him for his damages, and even the confiscation of my bike. But, I was lucky, so as soon as the case seemed closed, I got out of there as quickly as possible and pushed my crooked bike down to the office garage for it to be stored until I could manage to hobble over to my mechanic and have everything straightened out.

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What it means to get picked up by a “tow truck” in China

Red Chinese Mianbao Che

A Chinese "Mianbao Che" or "Bread Car"

In Chinese, you call a tow truck a 拖车, or “Tuo1 Che1” which literally translates to “dragging vehicle”. However, as I recently discovered when I found myself in need of a “dragging vehicle” for my JinCheng 250, a tow truck isn’t quite the same in China as I’m used to back home. Looking back on it, that probably makes sense given that I can’t remember ever seeing an actual tow truck on the road in Beijing.

After being relegated to a bus commuter for nearly a week after my throttle some how disconnected in the middle of an intersection, I decided to call up my mechanic. Unfortunately, anyone who knows anything about motorcycles with anything more than an electric motor, has to maintain operations far out near the 5th ring road (about at least 10km from the center of the city) due to the foggy legal status of motorcycles in Beijing. So pushing my bike was not an option, and when I took off the grip and tried to fix the throttle cable on my own, I noticed upon pulling it that there seemed to be nothing connecting it to the motor on the other side anymore.

So I texted my mechanic (easier than calling in Chinese) and told him my situation: “不能加油!不能骑车!” or “I can’t add gas! I can’t ride the bike!” to which he immediately responded that he’d send a drag vehicle (it was already about 8:30 at night and I wasn’t expecting to get such immediate service). Not too long after, I got a call from someone that said he was coming over immediately, quoted me a price and told me to send him my address. By 9:00 I got a call to come downstairs, which is when I saw that the tow truck was not actually a tow truck at all but really just a “面包车” which translates to “Bread Car” because, as you can kind of see in the picture above, it kind of looks like a loaf of bread. (These vehicles by the way are notoriously unreliable.) So the driver took down the back seat and told me to ask a security guard to help us lift the bike into the back. After two security guards had come over, we had removed both mirrors and the rear luggage case, and we performed some fancy wiggling with my bike to get her in properly, the tow truck was ready to go! I made sure to take a picture of the guy’s license plate (just in case) and paid the man RMB 150 (roughly $23)  for the tow.

So, as with so many other things with life in China, though it may have been done by questionable means, the kind that makes you lift an eyebrow and ask yourself “Seriously?”, the job got done nonetheless and for cheap. 300 Renminbi (150 for the tow and another RMB 150 for the actual repairs) and less than 24 hours later I was back on the road!

If any of our readers happen to be living in Beijing and either looking for a bike, bike parts, or bike repairs, leave a comment or send me an e-mail at buck@rubberonroad.com and I’ll get you in touch with my motorcycle mechanic. He’s been incredibly reliable, affordable, and he’s very friendly!

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Review of the First China Motorcycle and Parts Exhibition in Beijing

To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed by the expo. All in all there were certainly some very “Chinese” aspects about it. For one, the people running the more major sections didn’t quite seem to get the idea that the idea of having models at car and motorcycle shows is to actually accentuate the vehicles themselves. Instead, at one, for example, they just sort of set up a modeling show (see the the pictures below) where there was not a single motorcycle in site of the stage. Another had flare bar-tending, because of course what goes better with motorcycles than than a martini from a bottle that’s been spun around a lot! (In all honesty though, I kind of enjoyed the bar-tending)

There were some interesting set ups though, with some motorcycles with engines as small as 125cc but dressed up with fearing fairing made for a super-bike. Another cool one was a new Chinese company that had these cool retro-style and almost miniature (but still rideable) bikes.

Despite the show being a result of a trade talks between China and Italy it wasn’t easy to find the Ducati stand, but we eventually found it! Tucked away in the back behind several of the Chinese companies’ stages were several beautiful performance bikes including a massive one, the Ducati Diavel going for about 350k (Renminbi of course!)

There was supposed to be a dirt bike show out back too, which would’ve been really fun to watch, but unfortunately there had been some rain and so the show got cancelled.

Overall though, as with most things in China, it was a fun and interesting experience if for nothing else than to look at a whole bunch of motorcycles and to have a laugh at the difference between China’s version of a motorcycle expo and one that I went to back in New York’s Javits Center in 2010 (apparently Beijing’s Car Expo is much more impressive). I was disappointed that there was no Harley stand as advertised .

Below are some of the pictures I took of the show. And check out my intro write up for the motorcycle expo. Enjoy!

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The 2011 China International Motorcycle and Parts Convention

Tomorrow, July 2nd (Beijing local time), I will be attending the 2011 China International Motorcycle and Motorcycle Parts Convention, which will be held in the largest exhibition center in China, The China National Exhibition Center (or 国家会议中心) from July 2nd-4th. This convention is one of the major results of the China-Italy trade talks held in 2009. One of the major sponsors of the event is the China Chamber of Commerce as well as the Italian Motorcycle association and it will be hosted by the China-Italy Motorcycle Exhibition (Beijing) Co., Ltd.

Since this will be in such a huge exhibition center (located right next to the “Bird’s Nest”- The Olympic Stadium from 2008), there’s going to be no shortage motorcycle and motorcycle parts companies on show here. Of course there will be plenty of Chinese companies including Jincheng, the makers of my very own Chinese motorcycle, but the major global players will also be present including Ducati and Harley Davidson.

I’ll be tweeting from the show and trying to post as many pictures as possible. So for live updates of the exhibition tomorrow, follow us @rubberonroad08 (you can also click on our twitter feed in our sidebar), and if you like what you’re seeing, don’t forget to share the love and retweet!

Weekend of Motorcycles in Beijing

Changjiang 750

A CJ750 I saw in the street with a cool WWII look to it.

Just a quick update on all things motorcycles in Beijing, China. The weather is starting to get really nice here, highs in the high 20’s pretty much all week and that means more bikes are starting to turn up to take advantage of the nice weather. One of the most popular bikes around here that I’m starting to see a lot more of is the CJ750, from Chang Jiang. It’s actually a sidecar motorcycle, which I’m not the biggest fan of  as I feel it takes way the best part of riding (leaning and turns!) while adding the worst part of cars (getting stuck in traffic), but it’s got a great look to it and the design is based off of a Russian bike which is in turn a copy of a BMW with an opposed twin engine design. (I plan on writing more about the CJ750 in a later post dedicated to the subject, so make sure to subscribe from the top of the right sidebar for future updates). There were plenty of other bikes out as well though.

Harley Davidson Beijing

My Jincheng 250 sitting outside the H-D shop parked next to a few better known model bikes

On Saturday, I went with some friends to the Beijing art district, 798 (also known by its Chinese, Qi Jiu Ba), where a lot of bikers apparently frequent. I saw a bunch of guys on Harley’s driving through at one point. I could actually tell what they were riding before even seeing them, just from that old familiar rumble that I’ve missed so much about my Dyna, which is sitting in garage back home. It looked like they were from a local riding group as they all had matching patches on their backs, but I wasn’t able to catch the name.

On Sunday, I went with my girlfriend first to get her a proper helmet since she was a little wary of the bucket helmet she had been using. This gave me an excuse to go to the Beijing Harley Dealership for the first time! Great to see some of the bikes. I even asked if test riding was a possibility, but for some reason I didn’t seem enough like a viable potential customer to be allowed a ride…

Getting a New Chain on the Jiancheng

Getting a New Chain for "Mafan" my 250cc Jiancheng

Final stop was my local motorcycle mechanic out in 将台乡, near the 5th ring road. I had been having some problems with my chain being loose and wanted to see if he could tighten it. Unfortunately it was tightened as much as possible, which meant I needed to replace it as the installed chain was too long somehow. He didn’t have any chains on hand, so he referred me to a friend a couple doors down. This was a very Chinese situation. Could you imagine a mechanic in the West saying he doesn’t have a part, check with the guy down the street?? Well, bought a new chain and had it installed for a grand total of… US $13! (An hour of labor at a Harley Dealership will run you about $80) Not only that but the guy will be finding me a windshield to install next week (for RMB 65) and my usual guy is finding my girlfriend a motorcycle jacket (about RMB 500).

So with Amy almost fully kitted out with new gear, and my bike running relatively smoothly, I’m looking forward to taking advantage of my first full official riding season in Beijing, China!

Stuck in 4 lanes of traffic packed with trucks… on a 2 lane highway. A photo diary of the joys of motorcycle travel in China!

When we ran out of room on the side of the road, the only option left was to go through the middle.

Another motorcycle trip 100km outside of Beijing turned out to be quite eventful. On the way to and from Songshan Nature Reserve, we hit relentless wind, aggressive drivers pushing us off the road, rain that turned out to be saturated with mud, and some of the worst traffic I’ve ever seen. There was one point where we had to drive off road because the oncoming traffic not only took over our lane but also the bordering emergency lanes, leaving no room for traffic going the other way for about 10-20km, and this congestion was almost entirely made up of trucks. It wasn’t all bad though, we passed under the great wall, past the ming tombs, and there was some pretty spectacular scenery. Take a look at the photo diary of the trip from start to finish below:

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Video of the Motorcycle Trip in Chinese Countryside

The final edit of my trip across Beijing on “Mafan,” my Jincheng 250. The song is “Girl is on my Mind” by the Black Keys. Also be sure to check out our Youtube page, RubberOnRoad08,  for some of our other videos, and future Rubber on Road video updates! Hope you like it!