The motorbike is king in Vietnam. Around 80% of road users in Hanoi ride one, and there are an estimated four million in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) alone.
In a bid to tackle the congestion and pollution caused by these bikes, the Vietnamese Government is introducing a range of measures to make the country’s transport sector more efficient. As of 2017, all newly manufactured or imported motorbikes will be required to conform to strict Euro III standards on emissions. In the meantime, stricter penalties will be imposed upon motorbikes that fail to meet existing Euro II standards. And hundreds of new emission testing facilities are planned for Hanoi and HCMC.
Both cities are developing new urban rail networks to ease road congestion. Eight metro lines are planned for Hanoi, and six for HCMC. Three other lines, either light rail or monorail, will also be built in HCMC. The city has invested in buses running on compressed natural gas too.
“Vietnam’s plans for clean public transport and cleaner motorised vehicles are ambitious and will be difficult to enforce”, says Koos Neefjes, Policy Advisor on Climate Change for the United Nations Development Programme. “But they are very important for keeping the cities livable.”
Vietnam’s traffic congestion problems are mirrored in other Asian countries, due to rapid population growth in major cities, urban sprawl, and rising car and motorbike ownership.
In Beijing, a five-year plan for reducing congestion includes an extension to the subway system and reduced fares, a quota system for license plates to regulate the number of private cars, and restrictions that only allow drivers to use their cars on alternate days. Parking fees have been increased too, and restrictions on official vehicles introduced. Plans to introduce a congestion charge were also recently announced.
In India, the Government is attempting to boost manufacturing and sales of electric bikes and cars through the exemption of customs duties on components for the machines. While in Indonesia, state-owned companies are planning to build a 54km monorail to ease Jakarta’s traffic problems, hopefully saving 573,000 litres of fuel a day.
Smarter urban planning, intelligent traffic light systems and cycling initiatives are also being trialed across Asia to reduce congestion. But for now, in Vietnam and other rapidly developing nations, the motorbike remains as popular as ever.
Image via Padmanaba.