Does This Image Show a Traffic Jam on China’s 50-Lane Highway?

A photograph showing a "50-lane traffic jam" in China is real, but the accompanying caption is a bit misleading.

  • Published 28 March 2019
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Claim

A photograph shows a traffic jam on China's 50-lane highway as drivers merge down to just four lanes.

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Miscaptioned
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Origin

A photograph of a large traffic jam is frequently shared on social media as if it showed China’s “50 lane-highway” with drivers attempting to merge down to just 4 lanes:

This is a genuine photograph of a traffic jam in China. However, the caption frequently attached to this image is a bit misleading.

This photograph was taken in October 2015 at the end of Golden Week, a week-long national holiday in China, and it captures heavy congestion at a toll gate on the G4 Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway:

Traffic after the holidays tend to be pretty awful. But China may have just turned every driver’s worst nightmare into reality as hundreds of millions of people headed home at the end of a Golden Week, a week-long national holiday.

Thousands of motorists found themselves stranded on Tuesday in what looks from above like a 50-lane parking lot on the G4 Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway, one of the country’s busiest roads. Some are dubbing the traffic jam a “carpocalypse,” while others are calling it “carmageddon.”

Though foggy weather may have played a role, the real culprit is a new checkpoint that forces traffic to merge from 50 lanes down to just 20, according to The People’s Daily. Traffic was reportedly backed up for hours.

While this highway may expand to about 50 lanes at this toll booth — we counted the number of approximate car widths on a higher resolution version of this image and found that the “50-lane wide” expression was generally accurate for this portion of the road — the G4 expressway is not a “50-lane highway.”

An aerial view from Google Maps shows that the G4 Expressway is typically a 4-lane highway. The road expands to the width of approximately 50 cars when it approaches the Zhuozhou Toll Gate, but before and after this toll checkpoint it is only a 4-lane road. It should also be noted that while this portion of road may be able to literally fit 50 cars across, this toll gate area appears to have only 25 official lanes.

Here’s an aerial view of the toll we stitched together from Google Maps. Note how both the the northbound and southbound portions of this highway are merely 4-lane roads after they leave the toll area:

Here’s another look at this ridiculous traffic jam from The People’s Daily: