13 August, 2008

Tricycle ban in Vietnam

For decades, tricycles and three-wheeled motorbikes with open cargo bins at the front have been used to transport virtually every kind of product available in Vietnam. It is also popularly known as ‘Cyclo’ and is one of the most typical vehicles in Vietnam, a tricycle with a seat at the front for passengers with the driver seated behind. But as of January 1, 2008, they are banned nationwide. Though, this is a relief for most motorists and pedestrians, it is also an imposing question of survival for some 60,000 families who have depended on these vehicles for their living. Under Resolution No. 32/2007/NQ-CP (www.news.venanet.vn/vietnamlaw) from official gazette, all homemade vehicles, whether motorized or not, including delivery tricycles and those with past expiration dates will be outlawed. If found driving in city streets, they are to be confiscated and sold as scrap. The ban stems from authorities considering motorised cyclos obsolete and unsafe, and the hindrance these vehicles cause in maintaining ordered, safe roads for the public. The Ho Chi Minh City Traffic Police say that in the City alone, there are 60,000 no-engine three-wheelers and some 1,500 engine powered three-wheelers. “Is a motorcycle dominated system viable in the long term in a potentially richer Ho Chi Minh, given that even small numbers of cars will quickly lead to a gridlock in this very dense city?” (John Whitelegg and Gary Haq, The Earthscan Reader on World Transport Policy and Practise, p: 56)
The Vietnamese government looks at the advantages of having tricycles in Vietnam is that it remains the preference of many small traders needing delivery access to narrow alleys at reasonable prices.

Market management authorities agree many goods are transported to markets most efficiently by tricycle that can more cost-effectively reach shops tucked away inside the myriad alleys behind all the city’s main streets. It helps to flourish certain set of business which in turn is welfare to the people of Vietnam. It provides employment to a large number of workers who are nor literate neither have any other skills. It is easy and accessible mode of transportation for citizens and tourists alike. Cyclos are big tourist attraction which helps the tourism sector of Vietnam.

As per the Vietnamese government, tricycles are a hindrance to the smooth flow of traffic in the city which affects all sorts of business. These vehicles do not have enough capacity to load people or cargo in comparison to cars, buses and trucks, yet they occupy a lot of road space. “The disadvantage of small vehicles is their low power-to-weight ratios, and thus slow average speeds. Slow speeds pose problems mainly because they are at odds with what is rapidly becoming the mobility standard of the world – automobile travel.” (Robert Cervero, Informal Transport in the developing world p: 5) Disadvantage of having tricycles around is severe traffic jams and road blockages. The drivers are not trained and do not hold license. The biggest problem which the Vietnamese government is facing is to adjust transport development plans. They want to build underground railways, bridges, flyovers to tackle the issue. They plan to increase land area devoted to traffic. “According to international standards, the land area devoted to traffic must be 20-25% of total area but in Vietnam, the rate is 6% in some cities.”(http://www.english.vietnamnet.vn/) Government is extremely concerned about the road safety policies. Tricycles prove to be an obstacle in implementing these policies as they are not licensed and under any insurance.

According to the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transport and Public Works, more than 60,000 drivers with three and four-wheelers, many in their mid-50s and 60s, will be affected by the ban. 3000 self-employed garbage collectors will be affected. “In addition to their livelihood, these types of vehicles are useful for transporting goods in areas where roads are often too narrow for even mini-trucks. Hawkers at markets and construction material shops are dependent on the three-wheelers to transport their goods.” (http://www.vietnamnews.vnagency.com/) These sort of businesses will get affected due to the ban.

To overcome traffic congestion in near future, policy makers have suggested various solutions to traffic jams, such as raising vehicle registration fees, tolling roads where traffic jams occur, etc. They plan to build satellite cities around big cities to house residents, factories, offices, universities, etc. This will help increase land area for traffic in big cities and distribute the traffic in the outskirts of the main city.

The government plans to give authorization power to local bodies for allowing tricycle in the outskirts of the city or maybe for a particular period of time in a day. “The southern province of Tra Vinh will temporarily allow tricycles and homemade vehicles to continue carrying goods after January 1, while Hanoi only bans homemade vehicles from transporting goods. The disabled can still use their vehicles.”(http://www.vietnamnet.vn/) tricycles - motorized three or four-wheelers can only operate between 10pm and 4am. Homemade three or four-wheeled vehicles used to collect garbage can operate between 10pm and 6am.

http://english.vietnamnet.vn/social/2008/01/764047/ and 2008/01/762190/
Cervero Robert, 2004, Informal Transport in the developing world, UN-Habitat, Fukuoka, p: 5
Haq Gary, Whitelegg John, 2003, The Earthscan Reader on World Transport Policy and Practise, Earthscan, the UK p: 56

Parimita Chakravorty

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