Most large, highly populated city are plagued with traffic problems. Among the worst are places like Bangkok, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. In these places, people often have to budget several hours per day for their commutes. The worst city, however, is likely Beijing, China, and it was there the single biggest traffic jam on record happened in 2010 when roadwork created a 12-day, 61 mile long traffic jam in Beijing, China.
This spanned the China National Highway 110 and, ironically, formed from road construction that was intended to relieve traffic congestion. However, these highly trafficked streets couldn’t handle even a temporary reduction in capacity, and the increased maintenance trucks along with the roadwork quickly brought cars to a standstill. Making matters worse were the resulting fender benders and overheated cars. These setbacks left some motorists stuck in their cars for up to five days.
Opportunistic vendors showed up offering food, water, and cigarettes to the stranded drivers at prices as much as 10 times their ordinary rates. Those who refused to buy from the price gougers were sometimes threatened with car damage, and there were multiple incidents of modern-day highwaymen stealing money and siphoning gas. Still, things stayed relatively calm, as 400 police officers were sent in to constantly patrol the road.
This dragged on for nearly two weeks with cars moving at the sluggish pace of 2 miles per day. Travelers passed the time by playing cards and chess or napping on the hoods of their cars. .
Amazingly, the traffic jam vanished out of nowhere on the 12th day, which was actually a shorter time than some officials predicted. Seemingly overnight, local authorities had dispersed the congestion, and cars began moving at the ordinary speed, which wasn’t exactly breakneck on this forever traffic-heavy, accident-prone highway.
Incidentally, while Beijing might hold the record for the longest-lasting case of gridlock, the record for the longest traffic jam, in terms of distance, goes to Sao Paulo, Brazil. This city regularly has traffic jams up to 183 miles long.