Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Brother gymnast goes viral

'Brother Gymnast' Shows China's Road Risks

AOL News

TAIPEI, Taiwan (Oct. 21) --
A video of a motorcyclist miraculously walking away from a crash has gone viral on the Chinese Internet -- the latest of several spectacular accident videos to cause a stir.

The video, which had received 1 million hits as of today on Tudou (a Chinese YouTube clone), shows a helmet-less motorcycle rider slamming into the side of a small pickup truck, flipping through the air, then walking back, seemingly unscathed, to inspect his totaled bike.

AOL News could not confirm the authenticity of this or other viral Chinese accident videos. Hoaxes -- for fun or profit -- are widespread in today's vibrant and booming Chinese Internet culture.

Such videos show how the Internet is blasting once-trivial, local events across the Chinese Web, but they also highlight the dangers of China's anything-goes roads.

According to the posted videos, the accident occurred in Wenzhou. That city's police posted the video footage online on Oct. 20 in an attempt to locate the motorcycle rider, but he has reportedly not come forward.

The website Chinasmack, which posted the video with English translations of Internet users' responses, said viewers had dubbed the flying motorcycle rider "Brother Gymnast."

In a report by China's Zhejiang TV, the truck driver, identified only as Mr. Mei, says he lost control of the truck when the motorcyclist hit him. "I also thought I was finished," Mei said.

According to Mei, the motorcyclist asked him for compensation of 200 renminbi (about $30), a demand Mei rejected, saying the motorcyclist had hit him, not vice versa.

In May, another viral Chinese accident video purported to show a man -- dubbed "Brother Tricyclist" -- pedaling serenely through the mayhem of a high-speed, fatal Beijing car accident.

Videos of that accident have since been removed from Youku and other sites, but a news report is still viewable on YouTube. The report also shows "Running Brother," a man who narrowly avoids an accident involving a city bus and passenger car as he crosses the street.

"We would like to remind everyone to pay attention to traffic safety," the anchorwoman says at the end of the report.

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 44 in China, according to the World Health Organization. Every year an estimated 250,000 people are killed and half a million more are injured on Chinese roads, the WHO says.

China's own official statistics report far fewer accidents, with about 68,000 killed and 275,000 wounded in 2009, according to the state-run Xinhua news service. Road deaths have declined since a 2002 peak, according to the Chinese government.

China had the world's highest number of road accidents and road fatalities in 2005, according to the Chinese government.

But measured by traffic fatalities per 100,000 people, China (at 16.5) is hardly the worst in east Asia, trailing Laos (18.3), Mongolia (19.3), the Philippines (20) and Malaysia (23.6), according to a recent WHO report.

Chinese drivers routinely ignore traffic lights and rules and do not observe "right of way." In 2009, a retired 74-year-old teacher became famous for trying to enforce a traffic light near his home in Lanzhou, Gansu Province, by hurling bricks at disobedient drivers' cars, according to a China Daily report cited by Agence France-Presse.

Police stopped him after he'd damaged 30 cars, but 80 percent of the 400,000 respondents in an Internet poll supported his efforts, the China Daily reported.

The WHO says China is improving on road safety, especially after the 2003 formation of a national road safety coordination committee and the 2004 passage of stricter seat-belt, helmet and insurance guidelines in a new road safety law.

But roads are also becoming far more crowded as car sales soar in line with China's economic growth. China passed the U.S. to become the world's largest car market by unit last year, with 14 million autos sold, according to the Facts and Details website. Car sales have grown 20 to 30 percent per year since 2005, the fact sheet says.

Ninety million vehicles traveled China's roads in 2005, and 140 million are expected on the roads by 2020, according to the fact sheet.

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