Migrant motorcyclists brave cold, hunger, accidents to get home for Chinese New Year

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/15 18:18:39

Thousands of riders wait for free gas at a station in Foshan, South China's Guangdong Province on January 13. Photo: IC

Thousands of riders wait for free gas at a station in Foshan, South China's Guangdong Province on January 13. Photo: IC

Riders wrap their feet in layers of plastic bags to keep them warm and dry. Photo: IC

Riders wrap their feet in layers of plastic bags to keep them warm and dry. Photo: IC



Guo is strapped to her father's back to keep her from falling off the bike. Photo: IC

Guo is strapped to her father's back to keep her from falling off the bike. Photo: IC



 
A policewoman helps a boy put yellow warning signs around his ankles. Photo: IC

A policewoman helps a boy put yellow warning signs around his ankles. Photo: IC

Riders hit the road wearing everything they have, padded coats, raincoats, helmets and gloves. Photo: IC

Riders hit the road wearing everything they have, padded coats, raincoats, helmets and gloves. Photo: IC



 
Many carry all their luggage on their motorcycles. Photo: IC

Many carry all their luggage on their motorcycles. Photo: IC

 

As soon as young Guo got out of  school, her parents dressed her in a raincoat and strapped her to their motorcycle, along with packed bags of daily necessities and gifts.

They were riding from Jiangmen, South China's Guangdong Province to Pingnan township, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, conquering more than 400 kilometers to be with their family.

The Spring Festival travel rush, known as the chunyun, started last Friday. Official statistics show that 8.5 million trips were made on the first day. Last year, a record 2.98 billion trips were made during the 40-day holiday period.

Among these trips, many were made by migrant workers on motorcycles, especially in the south of China. Just in Guangdong alone, about half a million motorcycle trips are made every year. These people often have no other choice, as public transportation is too expensive for them, but they need to get home. Many only see their "left behind children" once a year.

Chang He, director of 2011 documentary 1,350 km that examines such motorcycle trips, said in interviews that the film crew heard many tragic stories along the way. One source told them about a couple who rode a motorcycle home one year with their child. The child sat in the middle and was bundled up tightly to defend against the freezing rain. By the time the couple got home, they found the child had suffocated to death.

In the documentary, Wang Zhengnian, his wife and three friends spent five days riding 1,350 kilometers. They rode from dawn till dark, had to endure icy rain, bad road condition and often had nothing to eat. At night, all five of them slept in one room at cheap hotels to save money. Furthermore, they had no smartphone and had to rely on paper maps for directions and often took detours by mistake.

Every year, local governments, companies and volunteers try to make this process easier for the homecoming motorcyclists. Stations are set up along major roads to provide free gas, bike maintenance, heating and hot rice porridge. This year, insurance companies also started offering free bus trips in some areas.


Newspaper headline: Hard rider


Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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