Take back our sidewalks, ban motorbikes

By Bao Nam   March 6, 2023 | 04:53 pm PT
Take back our sidewalks, ban motorbikes
A foreigner walks past rows of parked motorbikes in Hanoi, February 21, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Viet An
All our pedestrian space has been taken over by ugly motorbike parking "lots."

We have been asking ourselves time and time again: why have we failed to reclaim our sidewalks? In order to reach a solution, we need to think about this question from another angle: why have our sidewalks been taken over in the first place? Who has the most to gain from this?

Some small shop and restaurant owners take over the sidewalks for their commercial purposes. Some of these same entrepreneurs also use the sidewalks to park their customers' motorbikes. People who ride motorbikes gain a lot from this as they never have a problem finding an easy parking space.

Motorbikes are convenient. Everyone uses them. People love to stop by the sidewalks to buy a quick banh mi or packs of sticky rice, or to park their bikes for a minute while they hop into a nearby convenience store. All these desires and the business opportunities they present have left us with no sidewalks.

And because authorities have let the problem persist for long enough, people have become accustomed to a phenomenon now seen as normal.

Hanoi is relaunching its sidewalk cleanup campaign. But let’s face it: how many people actually walk to get around? That number is certainly much smaller than the number of people who want to see sidewalks occupied for numerous reasons. If we decide to defend the rights of a minority (walkers), then we will surely be met with opposition from the majority (motorbikes, businesses). We will reach a dead-end that way.

So, how should we do this?

I believe that dealing with violations individually will never be enough, so long as businesses and those who use motorbikes still have something to gain from taking up sidewalks. It means that the optimal way to approach the issue is to start by restricting the number of motorbikes allowed on the streets.

More specifically: I propose that full ban on motorbikes is in order.

Without the motorbikes, businesses on the sidewalks will have little to gain from taking up space, because cars cannot just stop whenever they wish. Gradually, they will return the sidewalks to their original states, without the need of direct interference from authorities.

There is a large gain from this: a chance for public transportation to finally thrive. Buses and other methods of public transport will have more room to grow, and people will find it easier to access them as well.

The rise of public transport would also correlate with the rise of walkers. They will no longer be the minority. And by that point, the fight is as good as won.

It is time that we root out this long-term problem. I understand that motorbikes have been with us for a long time, that they are popular and convenient, especially for those who are poor. There will be people who argue that a ban on motorbikes would be extreme and dangerous. But sometimes, that is what it takes to end the problem.

The opinions expressed here are personal and do not necessarily match VnExpress's viewpoints. Send your opinions here.
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