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Saigon Should Outlaw Motorbikes to Reduce Congestion, Accidents: Professor

An urban traffic expert has sparked heated debate by suggesting that Saigon get rid of its motorbikes.

"It’s high time Saigon removed motorbikes from its traffic circulation," argued Pham Xuan Mai, a lecturer from the University of Technology, at a conference on regulating personal vehicles in Ho Chi Minh City, reports Tuoi Tre.

In his speech, he noted that the city was home to the highest concentration of motorbikes in the world, with 910 bikes per 1,000 people and 7.5 million in total.

Mai also accused motorists of causing congestion, accidents and a loss of US$6.184 billion to the economy each year. "That the municipal government continued to tolerate motorbikes zipping through the streets was partly why living standards in Saigon remained stagnant," he added.

In terms of solutions, he recommended tougher measures to curb the flow of motorbikes into the city center, such as introducing fees, limiting parking lots and banning sidewalk parking.

“We must think that Ho Chi Minh City is developing – it must develop, and it should not be because of poverty that we cannot develop," he said in Vietnamese in a separate interview with Tuoi Tre, citing that the GDP per capita of the city is now US$6,500.

 

Mai’s strongly-worded speech spurred outrage in Tuoi Tre's comment section. But he is not alone in his view, as authorities in Ho Chi Minh have also considered banning motorbikes to tackle congestion.

As motorcycles are still the main transportation choice in Saigon, however, officials have hesitated to put the ban in place. Many are also worried that it will do more harm than good to the low-income population. Public transportation, on the other hand, is still lagging behind commuters’ demand: Saigon’s public buses have been losing riders while the city’s first metro line won’t be put into use until the early 2020s.

To this, Mai suggested that the government could do more to make the bus system more accessible to the less well-off.

[Photo via Tuoi Tre]


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