Hoi An appeals to the 'sole' in pedestrianization drive

By Nguyen Quy   December 5, 2019 | 01:50 am PT
Hoi An appeals to the 'sole' in pedestrianization drive
Tourists ride their bicycles in the ancient town of Hoi An, central Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/Huy Thoai.
The ancient town of Hoi An will introduce yet another pedestrian zone in a bid to become 'a town of cyclists'.

Motorbikes will be banned on Phan Chu Trinh Street from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays starting March 1 next year. In 2021, the ban will commence from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The street, around 400 meters from the iconic Pagoda Bridge, is a popular tourist attraction and home to scores of shops, souvenir vendors and eateries, including famed Banh Mi Phuong and Ba Buoi Chicken Rice.

The move is part of a major project by Hoi An to extend current walking zones with a vision to making the central town motor-free. Motorbikes will be restricted on popular tourist streets, while a public bike scheme is developed to provide alternative transportation.

The initiative comes with Hoi An experiencing a recent drop in its bicycle population in favor of motorbikes. It is estimated bicycles accounted for only 4 percent of all vehicles in Hoi An by 2017, a steep fall from 44 percent in 2012, according to Car Free Day Japan, a Tokyo-based non-government organization.

In the 2012-2017 period, the ratio of motorbikes rose from 41 percent to 77 percent. About 45,000 motorbikes operate in Hoi An, with 5,000 additions each year, data from the Hoi An administration shows. 

Nguyen Van Son, vice chairman of Hoi An, said Hoi An has set its sights on becoming "a town of bikes" or "a no-motor town." 

"Biking will decrease pollution and ensure sustainable tourist development," he noted.

Phan Xuan Thanh, chairman of Quang Nam Tourism Association, noted that fewer motorized vehicles would contribute to street safety in the town of Quang Nam Province and help local food businesses draw more customers.

Nguyen Phuc Chu Street implemented a similar ban during 2015, as well as Tran Phu, Nguyen Hue and Cong Nu Ngoc Hoa in 2017. Here, motorized vehicles are restricted from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Hoi An has pioneered pedestrian-friendly streets since 2004, with most hotels, restaurants and homestay facilities offering bike rental services.

Many visitors prefer the tranquility of biking through narrow alleys and past yellow houses decorated with old red-tiled roofs. Rental prices range from only VND20,000 to VND40,000 ($0.87 - 1.73) a day.

Accommodation reservations provider Agoda last June listed Hoi An as one of the world’s six best spots to explore on bicycle.

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