Lawmakers in Hanoi, Vietnam, approved a plan to ban motorcycles from parts of the country’s capital city by 2030 in an effort to ease traffic congestion and pollution.

Motorcycling in Vietnam

It seems counter-intuitive to those of us in North America, where the prevailing wisdom is that more motorcycles on the road improves traffic flow. Things are a little different in Hanoi, a city of 7.5 million people and 5 million motorcycles and scooters. In contrast, there are just 500,000 cars in the city, with two-wheelers outnumber automobiles by a 10:1 ratio. City planners estimate the number of motorcycles and scooters to increase to 6 million by 2020 while the number of cars will surpass 800,000.

According to the Hanoi People’s Committee, the city’s road infrastructure is not improving fast enough to meet the rising demands of transportation. About 60% of traffic (both two-wheels and four-) in Hanoi moves at just 12.4 mph while occupying 1.34 times the maximum capacity of city streets (and 3.72 times capacity in the heart of Hanoi). The sheer volume of traffic also contributes to air pollution, with the People’s Committee claiming transportation accounts for 70% of the city’s pollution.

The proposed ban on motorcycles was approved by 95 of 96 city councillors. Under the approved ban, the city will bar motorcycles and scooters from metropolitan areas while increasing public transportation. According to the Daily Star, buses account for 12% of current traffic; the government hopes to increase that to 50% by 2030. Two urban train lines are also under construction.

The government’s plan has already drawn opposition from the people who rely on motorcycles as an affordable mode of transportation. The plan could also have a serious effect on the global motorcycle industry; Vietnam is the world’s fourth largest motorcycle market, with Honda, Yamaha and Piaggio each carving out a significant stake.

  • novemberjulius

    A couple years ago I went to Hanoi with one of my brothers and one of my sisters. We did a scooter tour around Hanoi. It was awesome and terrifying. All we had were non-DOT type hard hats. The girls that gave us a tour were diminutive and short, and my brother and I were at least 100 lbs heavier than them each.
    When you get a chance look up “Hanoi scooter traffic” it’s very fun.

  • Phil W

    Scratch Hanoi from my bucket list.

    • Douglas

      Saigon is much better anyway…..

  • Beale

    I was there 4 years ago. Hanoi was the only place in Vietnam where I saw a significant number of cars and the only place I saw accidents, all car versus motorbike. Still, I think this may be a class war move in upwardly mobile Vietnam. I rode around Hoi An and Danang. Soooo much fun.

  • thm4855

    The motorcycle/pollution problems are caused by the 2stroke engines, which is mostly sold. To ban mc,s is wrong – a whole lot of people in the country and similar countries cannot afford a car. I am not sure, but I also heard/red that 2stroke engines are also banned in the US.

    • Larry Kahn

      Not specifically banned, just don’t pass automotive emission standards as they (2-strokes) are built currently. You can still ride older ones. And there’s the chain-saws/weed-whackers etc.

  • RyYYZ

    One suspects, much like when this was done in some cities in China, that this is as much about freeing up road space for the automobiles of the affluent and connected.

  • noblsht

    Pretty good way to turn the whole town into a static parking lot full of cars.

    • Larry Kahn

      The scooters will be saying “I’ll be back!”