Illustration by Trịnh Lập
By An Phương
I’m a huge fan of physical activities such as skipping robes and cycling. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, I enjoyed roaming the city centre via my bicycle and this hobby remained unchanged after HCM City reopened on October 1.
I’m glad to have a group of friends supporting the healthy lifestyle and we all agreed that it would be great if HCM City provides locals with a safer space for cycling without fear from bigger vehicles.
“I used to live in Singapore for three years and Australia for two years. Though Singapore has a smaller space for cycling compared to Australia, I was in love with how people considered bicycle a crucial part of their everyday life. Many travelled to work by bike, which could be easily parked out on the street,” my friend Thanh Tâm told Việt Nam News.
During the early days of November, HCM City has announced a plan to have 500 bicycles with smart locks for the public to use at 43 parking spots in District 1.
People will be able to travel across short distances on the bikes, which can be unlocked with 2G, 3G, 4G and bluetooth network connections on mobile phones.
During the first period, users will pay VNĐ5,000 for 30 minutes of rental and VNĐ10,000 for every hour.
After a year, the HCM City Department of Transport will evaluate the plan's efficiency and make necessary adjustments to the number of vehicles and operation scale.
“I will be the first person to try this out! After going back to work, I have been feeling overwhelmed with work and the increasing number of motorbikes. Considering that I’m living right in the city centre, I would love to go to work by bike, which is also close to where I live. I have been wanting to own a bike but my small living space has discouraged me to do so," Tâm said.
She added that she did not mind paying several thousand đồng per day as cycling improves physical strength.
“I pictured myself cycling after work before returning the vehicle. With the new service, I don’t have to wait for the weekend to have the time to visit the bike shop, which is quite far away. I now could do so at my convenience,” Tâm said.
Compared to a gym membership, which costs at least one to two million đồng per month, it is more affordable to exercise by cycling.
Ngọc Anh, our mutual friend, has recently started cycling, and has been enjoying the benefits.
“It was tiring at first! My legs were sore and I couldn’t keep up with the 20km that my friends assigned me to do. Now that I’m getting used to it, I feel excited every time I go for a ride,” she said.
Though Ngọc Anh has her own bike, she supported the idea of having a convenient place to rent bikes.
“This is a positive sign that HCM City is transforming in a more sustainable direction. An hour of cycling, regardless of doing so voluntarily as exercise or involuntarily such as going to work, is beneficial for our health,” she said.
I agreed with Ngọc Anh that cycling does pump my heart rate significantly and strengthen my upper respiratory system, thus reducing the instances of the common cold.
The number of bicycles sold have been skyrocketing these days, according to a bicycle shop owner in District 3.
“I can sell up to 10 bikes per day. Cycling is a good form of exercise which ensures safe distance among riders. And HCM City residents are no longer associating bicycles with a poor lifestyle. Indeed, its sustainability factor has made cycling a 'green' movement in the city!” he said, adding that bicycles are usually sold at one to two million đồng per item.
Tùng Khánh, another friend of mine, usually starts the cycling journey from his house in District 7 and goes along District 4 to pick up his friends who all then head to District 1 together.
Thủ Thiêm Bridge, Sala Complex and Sài Gòn Bridge are other popular destinations for bicycle riders.
“I’ve gotten to know some new groups of friends via the cycling journey. We first met on the street and then tried to keep up with the schedule every weekend,” Khánh said.
What’s fascinating is the fact that cycling attracts participation of people from different age groups. I’ve seen families with three generations cycling together on the street and realised how versatile this form of sport is.
“My family, who used to have different schedules and sports hobbies, now gather every weekend for a ride. Cycling does not require us to be good at sports or anything, but we hope HCM City in the future would have a separate lane for bicycles. My little brother is quite young and we have to take a careful look at him every time we are out on the street,” Thanh Thảo, another friend of mine, told me.
We are all looking forward to HCM City’s new plan for this kind of sport. A healthy lifestyle and the new normal should go hand in hand. VNS