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VietNamNews

Safer streets a must for public bicycle share scheme success

Update: February, 14/2014 - 09:06
Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers to comment on plans to develop and pilot public bike rental in five major Vietnamese cities, Ha Noi, HCM City, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho.

Here are some responses:

Brenda Mattick, Australian, Ha Noi

I welcome any effort to encourage more people to ride bikes in Viet Nam. After all, bikes don't pollute or use petrol – and riders can exercise while getting things done.

However, bike-rental schemes need bike-friendly streets. Most newcomers to Ha Noi's Old Quarter, for example, are rightly nervous about walking across the streets, let alone navigating them by bike.

I've hired bikes in Copenhagen and enjoyed riding along wide bike-only streets, bike lanes and country roads. I've also ridden my own bike along the many new bike paths created in Sydney over the past few years.

Separating traffic from bike riders and pedestrians, improving the standard of pubic transport and restricting motorised traffic can all help make Ha Noi and other cities more liveable. And bike-hire schemes can then play a part in helping reduce congestion, clear the air and calm the streets.

Tam Nguyen, Vietnamese, HCM City

It would be difficult to create bike-share schemes in Vietnamese cities because, generally, people don't respect traffic signs and laws or even pedestrians.

Our roads are highly-congested and the pavements are mostly taken over by vendors, food stalls and parked motorbikes, so where would you put the bicycles? Our parks and other public spaces need to be upgraded before they are capable of catering for a project such as the bike-share proposal.

Motorbikes are still the dominating transportation in this country. People perceive bicycles as symbols of low economic status. We really need to change this.

If we can set up bike-rental schemes in tourism sites in Hoi An and Da Nang, perhaps it's possible. However, the fee must be low enough to attract travellers.

Tiffany Hsu, Hunan, China

I visited Ha Noi and HCM City about a year ago and rarely saw bicycles. Chinese cities are more condensed than those in Viet Nam, so it took some time to set up the first public bicycle rental system in the city of Zhuzhou in 2011.

You need to first of all work with the private sector on constructing and building bike lanes. However, policy and regulations must be developed by the public sector. It is necessary to raise public awareness of this environmental-friendly lifestyle.

In ZhuZhou, we constructed about 400 rental stations. Local Chinese and other permanent residents can apply for an ID card. Tourists and travellers are charged slightly more than locals.

But you need bicycle-only lanes and these require urban renovation. Road signs and parking spaces must be renovated because you don't want cars (and motorbikes) taking up all the space designed specifically for bicycles.

Thu Hien Le, Vietnamese, Lyon, France

When I heard of this plan, I thought it would be impossible to achieve in a big city because of security reasons. In Viet Nam, car and motorbike drivers need someone to look over their vehicles in the street. So who can guarantee that public bikes in Viet Nam won't suffer from vandalism or theft?

In Lyon, for example, heavy security is part of the game. All bikes are locked into terminals and a quite complicated e-system is used to track the route of the bikers.

J.D. Kellas, Australian, Pleiku, Viet Nam

Bike rentals have become a common feature of many international cities, including Melbourne, Paris, Sydney and even rural Mount Gambier in South Australia.

The systems rely on the goodwill of users to return cycles in working condition, but they offer a cheap and easy way for visitors and locals to move about without trying to understand the public or private transport systems.

But one needs to be courageous and brave, especially in busy cities like Ha Noi and HCM City, where cyclists are "low man on the totem pole" and have to compete against "motos", cars, buses and trucks for road space. However, in smaller cities such as Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho, where traffic pressures are less, bike systems should work.

In Hoi An, one can already hire a bike cheaply. Tourists can easily get around the city and rural areas without being intimidated by heavy traffic. One problem may be the need for riders to wear helmets, but this is not necessary at present.

I already have grave fears about riding a "moto" in Ha Noi, and so I favour the public bus system. With a copy of a map from the tourist information web site, I can travel all over the capital very cheaply. If one intends to stay several weeks, a monthly ticket is the cheapest and simplest form of transport. — VNS



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