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Experts back Hanoi bicycle lane proposal

By Son Ha, Vo Hai   September 8, 2022 | 06:00 am PT
Experts back Hanoi bicycle lane proposal
People cycle in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District in September, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
Bicycle lanes are a general trend in urban transport development, improving human health and reducing air pollution, experts said in support of a Hanoi's proposal.

Hanoi has recently announced plans to develop exclusive lanes for vehicles as a solution to congestion in the 2022-2025 period.

Nguyen Anh Tuan, a lecturer at the University of Transport and Communications, said in the near future, bicycles should be one of the private transport means to be given investment priority as "cycling is a modern and civilized trend" that many countries have applied.

Although it cannot compete with other private vehicles in terms of convenience, bicycles have a great advantage, which includes being environmentally friendly and suitable for urban commuting, he said.

He explained many European countries have encouraged people to ride bicycles to tram and bus stations and create favorable conditions for them to carry along their bicycles onboard if necessary. Those countries also focus on the safety of cyclists by warning vehicles to slow down when entering areas with bicycle traffic or providing separate lanes for cyclists.

He said it is reasonable for Hanoi to consider exclusive bicycle lanes.

The plan will have positive impacts on the lifestyle of urbanites as it allows them to exercise more. It also helps promote eco-friendly vehicles, he added.

Pham Van Khanh, former head of the Construction Economics Department under the Ministry of Construction, said an exclusive bicycle lane is suited to Hanoi's strategy of traffic infrastructure development, especially public transportation.

Once the public transportation system is complete, "bicycles will be ideal as the distance between public transport stops is normally less than one kilometer." It would take around five minutes moving at the speed of 10-15 kph, he added.

Phan Le Binh, an expert from Japan International Cooperation Agency, said a bicycle-exclusive lane is a trend that many countries have already applied.

Many people are gradually switching from motor vehicles to bicycles to improve their health and protect the environment from greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts however pointed out the challenges in implementation.

Tuan from the University of Transport and Communications said there is not enough space for traffic to operate efficiently in Hanoi as it is, and that reserving exclusive bicycle lanes may affect other vehicle users.

At the same time, summer in Hanoi means months of scorching sunshine and heavy rain, both unconducive to bicycling, Tuan said.

"The city should collect opinions from the public, experts and relevant units for the plan to ensure consensus," he said.

He proposed that in its first phase, Hanoi should open the exclusive lanes only in urban areas where traffic infrastructure has been completed to avoid cyclists getting stuck in traffic jams at intersections, etc..

The plan should be effective in avoiding lanes being opened, then closed due to little usage, said Tuan.

Early this year, the Construction Ministry collaborated with the German Agency for International Cooperation to study infrastructure for bicycles in urban areas.

The study revealed that the number of bicycles in Vietnam has gradually dropped over the years since 1990s. These days, bicycles account for less than 3% of the total number of vehicles on the street.

Former head of the Construction Economics Department Khanh said it would take time for Hanoians to switch to bicycles due to potential traffic hazards posed by other motor vehicles.

He said the city needs to carry out a sociological investigation to understand the needs of the people, re-plan parking spots and parking lots, especially for bicycles, take into account the option of connecting cyclists with public transport and taxis and most importantly, ensure the safety of cyclists when operating in traffic.

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