Lawyers challenge Hanoi’s plan to ban motorbikes

By Vo Hai   June 19, 2017 | 11:12 am GMT+7
Lawyers challenge Hanoi’s plan to ban motorbikes
Heavy traffic in Hanoi after a downpour in early June, 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

'The city seems to be focusing more on imposing a ban than offering a real solution.'

Legal and transport experts have questioned the rehashed idea of banning motorbikes in Hanoi to curb congestion, saying it's a plan of dubious legality.

Hanoi’s lawmakers earlier this month opened the motorbike ban proposal to public discussion, saying they expect to make a decision this July. Under the plan, motorbikes would be banned from downtown streets by 2030.

During a discussion late last week, Nguyen Hong Tuyen, who chairs Hanoi Bar Association, has warned that "there's no legal ground" for such a move.

“If motorbikes are banned, how will people travel from the city downtown to the outskirts?”

Tuyen and other experts said that the city has to be careful with plans to restrict the movement of the residents, when public transport options are extremely limited.

Bui Xuan Cay, a transport professor, said people in most countries in the world are free to drive motorbikes, including places with higher income than Vietnam such as Taiwan or Thailand.

Cay said it would be more reasonable if the city plans measures to reduce the number of motorbikes, instead of banning them.

Legal issues aside, some argued that it is "impossible" to execute the plan in the next 13 years.

Ngo Anh Tuan, former director of Hanoi’s urban planning department, called the proposed motorbike ban “hasty."

He said the city should only restrict personal vehicles after it has improved public transport.

“The city seems to be focusing more on imposing a ban than offering a real solution,” Tuan said.

The motorbike ban idea has been brought up and rehashed several times over the past few years. It received strong opposition from many experts and residents every time. Many also said cars are actually to blame for traffic jams, not motorbikes.

Cars now occupy over 40 percent of the road area in Hanoi, according to local police.

The new plan also proposes restrictions on cars, but not a blanket ban. According to the plan, cars will have to stay away from certain streets for certain hours and days and pay higher parking fees in downtown areas.

Motorbikes are by far the most popular means of transport in Vietnam, even though car use has been booming in large cities in recent years.

The large number of individual vehicles has overwhelmed infrastructure development and has been blamed for increasing air pollution as well.

Officials in Ho Chi Minh City also plan to officially discuss a similar vehicle restriction plan this October.

The southern megacity now has eight million vehicles with 170 new cars and more than 800 motorbikes hitting the road every day, according to police data.

Figures from Hanoi police late last year showed the city of 7.6 million people has more than five million motorbikes and 550,000 cars. Data showed 4.6 percent of annual increase in individual vehicles while traffic land in the city has only expanded 0.4 percent a year.

Buses are currently the only means of public transport in the city and they are becoming less popular. The city has been pouring money into other projects, including a metro system with elevated and underground lines. It could take years if not decades for the lines to be completed.