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Student looks to improve traffic

Update: January, 15/2015 - 10:21
Ha Noi at heart: Ha Noi was the most important place in her life, because she was spending her formative years there.

by Le Huong

South Korean high school student Chihyun Ryu has spent her time in Ha Noi over the last three and a half years walking around Hoan Kiem Lake, and riding on the back of her father's motorbike taking videos of the chaotic traffic.

She said Ha Noi was a very colourful city – romantic, yet active and energetic at the same time. It was the most important place in her life, because she was spending her formative years there, she said. But she has quickly realised that the capital's traffic problems have made it less romantic.

So she started a project, aiming to improve the traffic in any small way she could. She said she loves Vietnamese food – banh xeo is her favourite – and thinks Hanoians are "really warm and nice". However, reducing traffic annoyances could make the city an even more enthralling place to be, she said.

The horns, especially, have gotten to Ryu.

"In my country, beeping horns is an impolite behaviour and is only done in emergencies," she said. "Horns are used all the time here, even while waiting for a red light at junctions and in traffic jams."

Ryu kick-started her project in early December on Facebook and through her school. She said she was trying to spread her ideas on improving traffic to as many people as possible.

Her father, who works in Ha Noi and loves the city, was first to support her endeavour.

He gave her a small camera to stick on her helmet, and the pair started travelling around Ha Noi on weekends, capturing traffic behaviours on film. She said they recorded shocking scenes: five people speeding by on one bike as if they were performing in a circus, bikes carrying wide loads and chaos during rush hour.

Taking in the view: Riding on the back of a xe om around Ha Noi's streets is one of Ryu's hobbies. — Photos courtesy of Chihyun Ryu

Last year, Ryu took thousands of photos and video clips of Viet Nam's traffic. She chose the 365 best photos and made a calendar. She has also made mugs with her project's logo to raise money. With the funding, she was able to purchase a domain name for a website: hanoitrafic.com.

Ryu drafted an agreement for drivers with suggested rules for the road. They included avoiding excessive horn use, avoiding excessive use of high beam, driving straight and not using mobiles while driving.

Gradual improvements

One of Ryu's first steps was to contact foreign investment companies.

"There are many foreign investment companies in Ha Noi, and they own private cars and drivers," she said. "I thought that by changing those drivers' attitudes, I could gradually make bigger improvements."

She said she hopes to target not just foreign companies' drivers, but all people who are concerned with traffic problems in Ha Noi and willing to help solve the problem. She also wanted to contact the city's big taxi companies, she said.

When he learned about her project, Nguyen Van Cuong, a driver from the Diplomatic Corps, said he shared her view.

"I have kept a habit of using horns only when necessary, and get extremely angry with drivers who beep their horns all the time," he said. "That is an impolite way of driving."

As she finds more people who agree with her traffic rules, Ryu will distribute bumper stickers to them for their cars, motorbikes and even helmets. Once they sign the document and use the stickers, they have agreed to obey the rules and spread the project's message, she said.

"I know it is very hard to make a big change in society, and I know that I am a small individual," Ryu said. "Yet, I believe that the society will start changing when we try, and I think giving a small motivation for the change is very important." — VNS

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