Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers about their experiences with walking-streets in Viet Nam and their suggestions on how to improve and manage them and public cultural areas.
Andre Van der Lans, European, Ha Noi
Pedestrian streets would be welcomed by tourists, but it would also put an extreme burden on the traffic.
I am European and a regular visitor to Viet Nam, and I stay most of my time in Ha Noi. I am well acquainted with the circumstances in the capital.
In general, walking in Ha Noi is a challenge to say the least. A pedestrian crossover, even with traffic lights, is no guarantee that you will be allowed to cross the street. Motorbikes, cars and buses refuse to stop for pedestrians making every street crossing a project.
Even walking in the pedestrian areas, like the sidewalk, is a challenge. Many motorbikes, and even cars in some places, use the sidewalk to avoid waiting for traffic lights. In short, there is no order whatsoever and it makes it difficult for tourists who, in general, are used to a system where pedestrians have the right of way.
For that reason, it would be great to have pedestrian streets in Ha Noi.
In European countries, one can find many pedestrian streets, especially in shopping areas and in old city centers.
With good traffic management, enforcement, tight control and with roads circumventing the center of the city, much of their inner cities are motor-free.
But that situation cannot be compared with Viet Nam for the simple reason that the population density in Ha Noi, HCM and other large Vietnamese cities is much higher than in any place in Europe.
Furthermore, the traffic control in the whole of Europe is very good. There is not one motorbike (or car for that matter) found on the pedestrian sidewalk and no one disobeys red traffic lights because the sanctions are very severe. Walking in European cities, therefore, is not difficult at all.
I have some ideas to improve Ha Noi's walking-streets.
Firstly, pedestrian streets are largely in the old quarter area, but they are not restricted to only the Old Quarter. I think walking streets on Hang Bai or Ngo Thi Nham streets would be a great improvement, provided there is law enforcement in place.
Secondly, as for pickpockets, you will find them everywhere. It happens in all countries and therefore all, or at least most of, tourists will be alert and protect their possessions.
Jessie Jang, Korean, Sydney
I really enjoyed discovering food and culture in your pedestrian zones in the Old Quarter of Ha Noi. But, I have to admit, it is too crowded and sometimes disorderly because the space for pedestrians is too small and mixed with streets on which automobile traffic is allowed.
From my experience, when I traveled to Glasgow (Scotland) and Sydney (Australia), their pedestrian zones are in central and ancient streets that are connected to each other and automobile-free.
Along them, you will find various small shops, shopping arcades, major shopping centres, museums, libraries, design centres and some squares. There are also events like street theatre, night markets or farmer markets.
The pedestrian zones are the cities' main promenades where people meet up to shop or socialise.
If I were Ha Noi, I would make a pedestrian zone that is not limited to just some streets in the Old Quarter but all of the Old Quarter. These would connect the Opera House, Trang Tien shop-ping centre, galleries, theatres and even Sword Lake. Doesn't it sound wonderful? Tourists like me could fully enjoy the sights and smells of your culture.
However, I realise that the situation is limited since currently there is no system of underground trains.
Alice Darby, Ha Noi
One thing that I loved about Hoi An are the lanterns everywhere. Perhaps not so practical in a city centre, but they are really beautiful and such an attraction.
Hoi An also closes the streets off for two hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening so you can walk about without the threat of being run over. Again, perhaps not so practical in Ha Noi, but definitely set Hoi An apart from other places we have visited!
Arti Sam, Indian, Melbourne
Cameras and disguised policemen are necessary to ensure orderly walking streets, especially when they are crowded.
I did not enjoy walking the streets in Ha Noi between Friday and Sunday night because there were so many people. Sellers tried to rush me and I did not have much time to take a careful look at products or food.
If possible, you should maintain walking streets in the Old Quarter on all nights of the week. This will lessen the crowds and crime, and enable tourists to enjoy it more.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
Ha Noi's old quarter is so crowded that I must walk in the street.
It would be more comforting and attractive if streets are strictly closed to traffic, uniformed police were visible and garbage cans were common. I would pull out my camera, pull out my wallet and go tourist-friendly crazy.
Besides, having university student volunteers hand out maps and offer suggestions for eating is also great.
Viet Nam can make more money and put genuine smiles on everyone's faces with a bit of organisation. — VNS