The Collateral Damage of China’s Online Economy

The Collateral Damage of China’s Online Economy

Benedict Armour

Date: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 11:19 / Keywords: Shared Bikes, Traffic Accident

China’s increasingly online urban economy is making the offline world a dangerous place. Case in point. A Beijing boy named Zhao was riding his bicycle homeward after a tutoring session for China’s infamous Gaokao university entrance exam when a delivery rider named Zhang rear-ended him on an e-bike. The collision broke the bones in the boy’s leg, inflicting what the court in Beijing would find was a ‘permanent disability’ when it later adjudicated the case, awarding USD24,000 (CNY160,000) to the plaintiff.

 

Zhang was delivering meals for China’s soon-to-be largest meals-on-wheels company, Ele.me, the food delivery branch of internet juggernaut owned by Shanghai Lazhasi Information Technology Co., and invested in by Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. [NYSE:BABA]. Ele.me is finalizing plans to swallow its main rival, Baidu Inc.’s [NYSE:BIDU] take-out delivery service platform, Baidu Waimai, it said yesterday, a move that will hand ele.me preeminence in the sector on a platter, which means that paying compensation for such incidents will become an ever-growing cost of its doing business.

 

That such delivery drivers have a penchant for striking high-schoolers -- a girl also studying for the Gaokao was another victim -- argues strongly for online education. Drivers mostly come from the countryside and lack city traffic smarts. They can earn CNY7,000 per month, which to them is a “dream.” Pursuit of this dream is turning China’s cities into a vehicular war zone which, with Millennials riding ever-burgeoning fleets of ride-sharing bikes makes the mixture explosive. It’s not safe to walk the sidewalks anymore, which are impassable in any case due to the aforesaid ride-sharing bikes strewn everywhere. A backlash is already underway. Until it comes, however, it’s best just to hunker down and live online because it’s an increasingly perilous place out there.

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Keywords: Shared Bikes, Traffic Accident