I’ve fallen and I choose not to get up

This is one of those things that’s quite commonplace in Shanghai, and you even forget how bizarre it is. Take a look at the scene of this accident, which I photographed myself on Wulumuqi Road (乌鲁木齐路):


You can see that two scooters and two people are lying on the pavement. It might look like the people are holding their heads or even writing in pain, but actually they’re both on their phones. Bystanders seem unconcerned for their well-being mostly because the two people on the ground seem totally fine.

So why are they lying on the ground like that?

This is standard operating procedure in Shanghai: if you’re on a scooter or a bicycle of any kind and get hit, never get up. Lie there until the police arrive, and make sure that you obtain some kind of compensation to cover your “injury.” Get your cash on the spot, and don’t get up off the street and leave until you get it.

This “system” is super annoying, because every little accident results in a much worse traffic jam than necessary. It points to a serious systemic problem, though: this is what the common people feel they have to do. They have to look out for themselves, even if it means lying on the street and faking or exaggerating injuries, because no one else is going to.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. God forbid those filthy commoners should look after themselves! Causing traffic jams for people who can afford cars? The nerve of them!

    Wealthy person injures commoner, is forced to pay money. Seriously, what do you have against social justice? In a just world, the wealthy person would be jailed for failing to follow traffic laws. It’s tough following these regressive bloggers. Trump is really going to screw things up for the whole world. 🙁

    • So people lying in the street is a good system?

      I would argue that it’s possible to have a legal system that protects the rights of poor people without demeaning them by forcing them to lie in the street and go through this whole act to maximize payouts. Call me a dreamer.

  2. Wealthy person accidentally injures commoner because commoner was riding his ebike on the wrong side of the road while simultaneously talking on his phone. Wealthy person injures commoner because wealthy person sped up to try and beat him through an intersection instead of waiting like he should have. Commoner injures wealthy person because he’s flying around town on an ebike with 20-foot metal poles strapped to the sides like a knight jousting everybody…it’s pretty much every man for himself out there.

  3. Joining you on the “dreamer” front, John. It’s sad that lying on the road until the police arrives, regardless of who caused the accident, has had to become the “thing to do” if you want a compensation for a traffic accident… What a twisted and strange system.

  4. I would go one step further and add that China needs to change its laws about cars that are involved in accidents. Currently, protocol after an accident is to stop where you are – no matter if it’s a small two-lane road or in the middle of a highway – and wait for police to arrive. It’s a complete disregard for safety in my opinion, not to mention a hassle for the drivers stuck in an unnecessary traffic jam.

Leave a Reply