City blocked after bicycle balance hiccup
Henrietta Wang witnessed the events from a taxi
Millions of pedestrians caused yet more traffic chaos on Wednesday morning after cyclist Mr Han collided with lifelong football fan Mr Jiang on Chaoyang Wai Road (daijie). Mr Han and Mr Jiang both tumbled to the tarmac after Mr Hanís attention was distracted by a big TV screen displaying "landmarks, celebrities and Olympic rings".
Within minutes, the injured pair was surrounded by 14-17 passersby, who stood in a loose circle and commented between themselves. "No one even tried to help," said Mr Han the following day on the phone.
The sight of some commotion (re nao) and a circle of people in the vicinity drew in other pedestrians. Upon arrival, they surrounded the original (primary) ring with a ring of their own. One ring member recalls - "by this time passing cars had started to slow, their drivers itching to find out the cause of the commotion".
It was one Miss Ou-Yang who first looked from her office window in an adjacent tower. Her colleagues found that the small window was inadequate for viewing, and decided to go out onto the street "to get more involved". Workers in other offices followed them down to get a better idea of what was going on. These events were mirrored in all surrounding office buildings.
Like any normal working day in China, there were also thousands of people already out on the streets in the area, swanning around unoccupied. Soon these people joined the crowd, forming concentric circles dozens of rows deep. Most people at the back had no view or idea of what the commotion was about, and rumours soon began to spread, many started by Mr Li, (row 17). Traffic was already blocked, and the commotion from the scene already audible from the World Trade Centre.
Over the following hours, people continued to pour onto the street whilst thousands more arrived from other cities in Hebei, and later, surrounding provinces. It was at 11pm that gou-rou's answering machine received a desperate message from the That's Beijing offices - muffled cries and what sounded like an animal saying the word "help" were all we could make out. Nothing has been heard from them since. By evening rush hour, the circles surrounding the still stricken cyclists numbered in the thousands. Several independent smaller circles of arguing women formed amidst the crowd, orbiting the initial scene at a distance of several kilometres, causing further trouble as they bustled against other pedestrians. In one particularly nasty incident, two of these orbiting circles collided violently somewhere near the North Fourth Ring Road. No one knows how many fell.
By 11am the next day, some people had begun to return home, and three hours later the number of people arriving equalled those leaving, the crowd "population" was at last stable. No one will ever be certain of how many people were involved, or what happened to Xiao He, who has been missing since leaving his office to "see what is going on."