What I learnt from being in Hanoi
  • People keep their motorbikes in their houses (and they are pretty heavy)
  • They learn to ride them on little figure 8 tracks
  • Everyone seems to ride a motor bike or know how to
  • Traffic lights are indicators and “logic” has the last say (not too much coming, I can make it through)
  • Critical mass matters – motor bikes
  • Network theorists should try and understand how communication takes places between motorcyclists in Hanoi
  • Bicycles are rode elegantly even when it’s humid
  • When it rains people stop on the side of the road to get out their ponchos – so many colourful ponchos
  • Recreational areas and walking are important (so many people came out to walk or play in the evenings)
  • The city is alive at night (roller blades come out, ride-in ice cream shop, parks are full of people)
  • Markets line the street of neighbourhoods (but people would often ride rather than walk/cycle to them because that’s what they were used to)
  • Driving appears to be on the rise, especially for families with concern for babies on motor bikes
  • There is often nowhere to walk
  • The bus can be very hot and crowded and it can be hard to find out where to catch a bus (especially if you can’t read Vietnamese)
What I thought before I went

When one thinks of transport in Hanoi, one thinks of motorbikes and scooters – millions of them!  I have only learnt the basics of riding a motorbike so this will be a big shock to the system.  But I figure if all these people can do it, it mustn’t be too hard…

What does the research say about transport in Hanoi?
  • Women and poorer people are more likely to walk while men and richer people use motorised vehicles more (1)
  • On average there is one motorbike for every two residents
  • 60% of travel in Hanoi is done by motorbike and only 5% of travel is by bus (2)
  • There are almost no separate bicycle lanes and very little room on pavements for bicycles (1)
  • Almost no one drives a car (1% respondents in a recent study drove (1))
  • There are over 7 billion km of travel by road collectively driven/ridden by the people on Hanoi each year (3)
When am I in Hanoi and what will I be doing?

I’ll be arriving in Hanoi on 9th May by plane, so the first thing I’ll be doing is working out how to get from the airport to where I’m staying.  I’ll be in Hanoi with my friend Lauren who has lived there and we will be staying with one of her friends.  She is keen for me to meet the bike taxi drivers from near where she lived that all have amazing stories to tell.  I’m looking forward to (or completely scared to) get on a motor bike.  I might try as a pillion first.  I’m also intrigued to see how difficult it is to ride a bicycle there – especially considering how popular it once was.  I have been in touch with some people from Hanoi who have told me they’ll take me exploring transport.  One girl is studying transport, another film and one guy told me he has lots of funny stories about catching the bus.  I will hopefully be also able to find the one in a hundred person who drives in Hanoi.  I will also try and make sure I meet a range of people, women and men, rich and poor, older and younger so I get the full spectrum of transport experiences.

This is going to be my first stop so I’m going to be getting used to filming, approaching people on the street and interviewing.  I think the most difficult thing for me though is organisation and remembering to charge my batteries.  Communication will be a challenge but hopefully (with the help of translators) I’ll get to understand how a range of people in Hanoi feel about transport.  I’ll be leaving Hanoi by train two weeks or so after I arrive with hopefully many stories to tell, images to show and with awesome motor bike skills.

1. Tran & Schlyter “Gender and class in urban transport: the cases of Xian and Hanoi” Environment and Urbanization 22(2010): 139-155, doi:10.1177/0956247810363526
2. Tuan, Vu Anh, and Tetsuo Shimizu. “Modeling of household motorcycle ownership behavior in Hanoi city.” Journal of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies 6 (2005): 1751-1765.
3. http://www.gso.gov.vn/default_en.aspx?tabid=473&idmid=3&ItemID=12779