Tricycle Driver Worked to Death to Pay for Son's College Tuition

March 23, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: March 23, 2006 12:00 am

CHONGQING, CHINA – Manpowered tricycle number 88 leans against a cement electric power pole next to the garbage station on 136 Xinsheng Street. Its swarthy and strong fifty-five year old driver Wu Cunren wiped the sweat away from his body, but was not able to continue working.

Manpower Tricycle Driver Exhausted to Death on Street

As reported by Chongqing Morning Post , on March 15 the business was especially good for manpowered tricycles in Bishan District, Chongqing City since taxi services were temporarily shut down. With customer after customer, every manpowered tricycle was too busy to stop. The drivers could earn dozens of yuan more on these days than on an average day. At a little past 7 p.m. that evening, driver Wu Cunren parked his tricycle on the roadside, slipped down from his seat and moved himself into the passenger seat in the back. Nobody paid attention to this, as it is quite common for tricycle drivers to take a break on the road.

At 9 p.m., Wu's tricycle was still parked there. A street cleaning woman, Sun Zhengrong, saw him “sleeping very tightly”, leaning on the box cover in the passenger seat, and was reluctant to wake him up.

It wasn't until 5:30 a.m. the next morning, when Sun Zhengrong returned to clean the street again and saw Wu still “sleeping” in his tricycle, that she realized something was wrong. She asked someone to check it out, and found that Wu had already died. His body had become stiff. All he had with him was a worn-out watch and more than 100 yuan (about USD$12) in his pocket – all that he had earned the day before from driving his tricycle.

Son in College, Family Debt Amounts to over Ten Thousand Yuan

Wu lived in Dalan Village three kilometers to the south of the city. His wife is a farmer, and his son was admitted to a college in Wuhan City last year. Once his son entered college, his tuition became the biggest burden for the family.

Wu started riding his manpowered tricycle two years ago, which required him to rise early and sleep late. Besides the 1000 yuan monthly leasing fee for the tricycle, he still managed to make enough to help relieve his family's expenses. But due to his son's college expenses, to date, the family still carries a ten thousand yuan debt.

According to family members, Wu had not had a physical examination for more than ten years, and the cause of his death could be attributed to exhaustion.

Barely Able to Make a Living Even Though Working Hard Wu would get up at 6 a.m. every day all year round. After cleaning himself and doing some housework, he would walk along the unpaved driveway to the road, unlock his tricycle, and ride to the city for business. According to a tricycle driver, Wu worked very hard, as long as he had a potential customer, no matter how low the negotiated price would be, he would accept it.

Wu once said it was hard to make a living with a manpowered tricycle. Sometimes, after he rode for more than ten minutes and arrived at the destination, the passenger would only pay him one yuan, saying, “I have no change in my pocket”, and walk away haughtily. Sometimes he would encounter passengers who gave him less than one yuan.

In need of money for his son's college expenses, Wu was easier to be taken advantage of than the average tricycle driver. When the business was slow, Lao Wu would carry up to four passengers at a time. During the few days when taxi services are closed for business, Wu would go home late but was happy about the dozens of extra yuan that he could make on those days.

According to his wife Tao Qiyu, Wu normally would not return home until after 7pm, sometimes even 8pm if the business was good. He would sit on the bench and take a deep breath before being able to stand up again and have supper. Her husband's sudden death was a big shock, leaving no one to take care of her family's heavy burden and their son's college tuition.