Hanoi Motorbike Ban: Is This the End of Vietnam's 'Moto' Culture?

Motorbikes in Hanoi
Motorbikes in Hanoi | © Vyacheslav Argenberg/Flickr
Dung Phan

Officials in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi decided to vote unanimously on July 4 to ban motorbikes in attempt to combat pollution and traffic congestion. In a city where it is hardly possible to swing a dead cat without hitting a motorbike, the plan might come as a shock.

It was not just a coincidence when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie spent Thanksgiving in Vietnam, they decided to rent a scooter for shopping and sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City. Hopping on a motorbike, squeezing yourself in the chaos of the bustling, traffic-clogged streets can give you a chance to glimpse the real character of the city, way more revealing than any museum or guided tours.

“I traveled across the country on a motorbike and it gave me memories I will remember for life,” recalled Aleks Robert, a Bulgarian traveler to Vietnam for two months. “For me, the scooter is one of Vietnam’s symbols.” That amusing and interactive side itself can well explain why there is an increasing number of motor tours in most cities and private services for renting scooters or bikes.

A family on two wheels

However, the decision to ban motorbikes was recently approved by 95 out of 96 city councillors. A report found an “alarming” increase in motorbikes regarding Hanoi’s environmental concerns and severe road congestion. “The ban will be implemented in metropolitan districts and public transport options would be increased to wean people off their scooters”, the report says. The effort is supposed to modernise the city as seen in Seoul or Tokyo, which can also be associated with HCMC’s recent pavement clear-up projects to create an orderly “little Singapore.”

In a country where there are five million motorbikes in proportion to its population of about seven million people, a motorbike presents something more than just a staple means of transportation. People do everything with their motorbikes: carry a pile of goods or a group of four people on a motorbike; sleep on a motorbike, “walk” a dog along a motorbike, sit on a motorbike nearby the riverbank on a date…

Especially for Hien Nguyen, an office worker who commutes daily by motorbike, it provides an insight into Vietnamese behaviours and their mindset. “Look at the hectic, non-stop flow of traffic. People have to be quick, flexible and mostly acting upon their habits. No one has time to think, looking back or forwards, which can explain why they rarely think of anything in a long term,” Nguyen said.

Hanoi traffic

The ban, however, does not include cars. While it mainly aims to boost the number of people using public transport as opposed to the current 12%, some residents at least are having a different plan. “I am not too concerned about the ban. By 2030, I think I save up enough money to afford a car,” said Hanoi resident Hoang Xuan Huong.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article