Walking should be in vogue again

By Nguyen Kien Lap   September 2, 2022 | 07:02 pm PT
Walking should be in vogue again
People walk on a sidewalk in downtown HCMC, where barriers have been installed to prevent motorbikes, 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Nguyen
Japan reserves a large portion of its roads for pedestrians despite being one of the top manufacturers of cars and motorbikes in the world. Why can't Vietnam?

People no longer walk like they used to.

In an era that demands everyone be quick and efficient, Vietnam has become "one of the countries with the highest number of motorbikes in the world." This can also be translated into "one of the countries with the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the region and the world."

It is considered normal for every household to possess personal vehicles like motorbikes. In fact it is abnormal not to.

Walking is meant only for students and those who do physical exercises early in the morning or late afternoon. How does a successful person move around then? By sitting in a car, air conditioner on, radio blasting the latest songs on music charts. At least that is how many Vietnamese believe what "successful" looks like.

But at the same time it is not hard to see why people do not want to walk more often. Our pavements have no spaces left and our urban planning is simply inappropriate in many places. Bicycles are fearful of large trucks on the roads, while pavements become food and beverage stalls. I was almost hit by a bus once because a noodle soup place had occupied the pavement.

In major cities like Ho Chi Minh City there are beautiful pedestrians-only streets and squares like Bui Vien and Nguyen Hue, but they are more for amusement and commercial purposes and far from adequate to reinvigorate our "walking culture."

I think it is time we need a change in perspective. It is time we learn to fall in love with walking once more.

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