Hanoi mulls two options to implement downtown motorbike ban

By Hung Le   October 25, 2019 | 05:31 am PT
Hanoi mulls two options to implement downtown motorbike ban
Motorbikes stranded on a street in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
Two solutions, a district-based delineation of zones and the use ring roads to restrict motorbikes were presented at a conference in Hanoi Friday.

The Ministry of Transport’s Transport Development Strategy Institute (TDSI) suggested that motorbikes are restricted in chosen streets and areas of 17 Hanoi districts by 2030. The districts are home to 4.74 million people, accounting for 52 percent of the city population.

Explaining the rationale for the controversial ban plan, TDSI representative Pham Anh Tuan said: "Carrying the same number of people, motorbikes take up 6.8 times more road surface than buses, which means equal treatment of all vehicles would inevitably lead to traffic congestion."

However, Tuan also conceded the model of delineating zones based on district boundaries carried many limitations, such as the difficulty in organizing public transport for people inside and outside each zone, given the lack of adequate technical barriers between districts.

It would also be difficult to build parking spaces and transit points between the zones, he added.

Tuan said that Hanoi could also delineate restricted zones based on the city’s ring roads, a model applied in many cities like Singapore and London.

Tuan went on to say that Hanoi should also only consider implementing motorbike bans when its public transport system is able to meet at least 60.5 percent of the population’s travel needs.

"To meet this requirement by 2030, the city will need to put into operation 8 urban railway lines, around 200 bus routes, 35,000 taxis, 15-20 minibus routes, and 8,000- 10,000 public bicycles," he said.

"Motorbike restrictions can only apply for specific hours or day of the week based on the selected route. On many routes, including pedestrian designated zones, the ban should only take place within the 6 a.m.-10 p.m. frame (Hanoi’s public transportation hours), with public transport available as a viable alternative, " he added.

Vu Thi Vinh, former General Secretary of Association of Cities in Vietnam, a voluntary organization of 95 cities and towns, said Hanoi will have to roll out the motorbike restrictions on a step by step basis and not in a hurry, so as to avoid social disruption.

"For example, Guangzhou started off with propagating its plan for 16 years to get residents to buy into it, followed by banning motorbikes on some streets and then by banning them coming in from local provinces before banning motorbikes in the city altogether and destroying old motorbikes," she said.

For people to start using public transportation, buses have to be inexpensive and travel faster, said Dr. Tu Si Sua, senior lecturer at the University of Transport.

"If we raised the rate at which public transport can satisfy demand needs from 10-20 percent, an additional 3,300 vehicles will be needed. This puts pressure on infrastructure, so infrastructure must be expanded first, " he added.

Vu Van Vien, Director of the Hanoi Department of Transport, suggested that special consideration be given to units that require motorbike transportation such as the post office or newspaper distributors.

Experts attending the conference also considered the introduction of tolls in certain zones to restrict motorbikes. While some believe the practice is time-consuming and annoying for people, Koji Ono, Manager of NEC Vietnam, a systems solutions firm, said that modern technology can be used to do away with the need for toll booths.

"People can pay just like they do for water or electricity, and rates can be altered depending on the level of congestion at different times of the day," he added.

Hanoi’s plan to ban motorbikes by 2030 was originally approved in 2017, with the Transport Ministry supporting it, saying the city’s traffic and emission problems needed drastic solutions.

However, the plan was met with opposition from transport experts, who pointed out that the current state of public transportation was woefully inadequate.

Hanoi currently has 6.6 million vehicles, including 5.9 million motorbikes and 600,000 cars. Between 2011 and 2018, the number of motorbikes and cars have grown 6.7 times, coming to around 760 motorbikes per 1000 people, said Tuan.

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