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Yangon: Lessons From a Neighbor That Banned Bikes

As Saigon is mulling a complete ban on motorbikes – first, in the city’s downtown area and then, city-wide, perhaps - it’s high time to look at the situation in Yangon, where a similar ban was implemented more than ten years ago.

It’s impossible to imagine Saigon not filled with the buzz of traffic. But residents of Myanmar’s former capital, Yangon, have been living without bikes since 2003, when “fuel-powered motorcycles [were] banned city-wide, while six downtown townships also restrict[ed] access of pedal-powered vehicles and e-bikes,” according to a feature by Channel News Asia.

Even now, many are still unsure why the Burmese government decided to outlaw motorbikes. Reasons given range from road safety to class warfare. Some even cite an urban tale of a young bike gang driving alongside a military general and making a rude gesture as the original root of the ban.

“They were restricted because almost all of the riders at the time didn’t obey the traffic rules,” Dr. Maung Aung, the secretary of the Yangon Region Transportation Authority (YRTA), shared with the news source. “Especially groups of gangster-like youths rode with exposed exhausts and who made loud noises.”

The ban has undoubtedly led to a boost in car ownership. A gradual decrease in the price of imported cars in recent years hasn't helped either, as the city’s streets are clogged with personal vehicles. The local government tried to impose additional taxes and import restrictions not long ago, but the return of bikes seems unlikely.

[Photo via Frontier Myanmar]

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