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A bicycle accident in Beijing

Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images

Bystanders gather to watch as a policeman takes a closer look at an injured man lying on the road beside his electric bicycle in Beijing on April 5. It was not known whether the cyclist was hit by a vehicle which fled the scene, or if he collapsed on his own, but an ambulance arrived moments later to take the injured man away.

Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images

An injured cyclist is taken away by paramedics in Beijing on April 5.

China's roads are among the world's most dangerous, with widespread flouting of traffic laws leaving almost 70,000 people dead from road accidents in 2009, or around 190 fatalities a day, according to police statistics cited by AFP.

As long ago as 2001, Philip Pan of the Washington Post declared that the bicycle was no longer king of the road in China. Pan recounted how "China's fascination with the bicycle began in the late 19th century, when two Americans pedaled from Constantinople to Peking on a pair of Humber bicycles with diamond-pattern frames. Crowds greeted them in village after village, describing the strange vehicle as 'a foreign horse' and 'a little mule that you drive by the ears and kick in the sides to make him go'."

A few weeks ago, Evan Osnos of the New Yorker revisited Pan's analysis in a blog post on his own experiences riding the bike lanes of Beijing.