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Updated at Tuesday, 12 Mar 2019, 16:39
The Hanoitimes - Banning motorbikes is expected to curb traffic congestion and pollution. However, it has a long way to go.
Hanoi plans to wean off motorbikes in downtown areas by 2030 as part of efforts to ease traffic congestion and environment pollution. However, the ban is under question as the public transport network is not expanding fast enough.
Let’s see why Hanoi considers the move and how the city’s authorities can make the plan work.
Hanoi has 5.5 million of motorbikes and more than 500,000 cars with additional 18,000-22,000 motorbikes and 6,000-8,000 cars registered monthly for circulation amid limited cleared land for road expansion, according to Director Nguyen Hoang Hai of the Hanoi Urban Transport Management and Operation Center (TRAMOC).
The city suffers economic damage worth US$1 billion to US$1.2 billion per year due to traffic congestion. In addition, traffic jam causes waste of more than one million hours per year and worsens pollution in the downtown, Hai added.
Nguyen Tien Minh, deputy head of the Hanoi People’s Council, told Vietnam News that some 70% of traffic accidents are related to motorbikes, which proves that motorbike drivers are those at the highest risk of road accidents.
Banning bikes to the downtown, therefore, becomes crucial as it helps ease traffic jam and pollution, according to Director of the Hanoi Department of Transportation Vu Van Vien.
In responding to questions whether the ban will trouble local residents, Vien said that banning will make locals switch to public means of transport.
It is necessary to use administration order as it enables transport paticipants to give up their habits of using motorbikes in most of the cases and for a very short distance, Vien said in an interview with Thanh Nien newspaper.
Hanoi has drawn up plans to ban motorbikes in the inner city for years and the city is moving towards the implementation, Vien told Kinh Te & Do Thi newspaper.
How to do?
Hanoi’s authorities are considering the ban on motorbikes in either Le Van Luong or Nguyen Trai streets that are home to bus-rapid-transit (BRT) and urban railway routes.
He attributed the selection of Le Van Luong and Nguyen Trai streets to the operation of BRT and Cat Linh – Ha Dong urban railway routes, which are capable of carrying a large number of passengers.
In a broader move, the city will ban motorbikes in areas that up to 80% of local residents can access public means of transport within a radius of less than 500 meters, Vien said.
From the management aspect, the ban is good for the whole society as it will help save time, money, and curb pollution. However, it has a long way to go.
For the majority of people, the reality is that motorbikes are a choice of convenience in peak hours or in small paths of the city whose population densities have soared and ridiculously long traffic jams and gridlocks have followed.
In terms of sociology, the ban is very touchy because a motorbike is associated with the traveling culture of Vietnamese people, Lien Nguyen told CNN, adding that going by motorbikes remains convenient given few public transport options while cars are very expensive and not many people can afford to buy.
A netizen named Anh Duc commented on Thanh Nien newspaper that administration orders will never work and having measures to better public transport is a wiser move rather than motorbike ban. He warned that people may try to buy a car, even a cheap one if they are banned to travel on a motorbike. In such case, the traffic situation will worsen, he concluded.
Javier Puig Saura, a Spanish diplomat, told CNN that in Hanoi, you can see that life happens on a motorbike as people can sleep on a motorbike, carry anything on a motorbike, and do anything on a motorbike.
Yet, in Hanoi, bikes are clearly more than just a way to get around.
Motorbikes are familiar to foreigners in Vietnam. Illustrative photo
Luke Hunt from The Diplomat said that whether the authorities can genuinely improve public transport to the point where people are prepared to leave their bikes at home, is doubtful.
He said the proposed ban on motorbikes makes little sense and such a ban belongs on cars. If anything, motorbikes need to be encouraged, alongside use of public transport, he emphasized.