It is easy to spot a foreigner in Hanoi. Cowering at intersections, staring in awe as the traffic hurtles past, tourists wait for a break in the flow of motorcycles, bicycles, carts, cars and buses – or for a kind driver to stop and bestow them the right of way – so that they may finally cross the road.
That break never comes, of course, which is why the Vietnamese capital’s chaotic congestion is a phenomenon that hotel concierges often address with first-time visitors. The New York Times even published a how-to guide for tourists on safely crossing the road. With 5m motorbikes on the city’s streets – many of them carrying entire families, or stacked up with boxes, window frames or flowers – Hanoi has long been either a thrilling, or terrifying, experience for the uninitiated.
But all that is about to change. The department of transport and the city council have agreed to ban motorbikes and scooters by 2030 to ease congestion and air pollution. Citing an “alarming” increase in the number of two-wheeled vehicles – traffic is at nearly four times the capacity of roads in crowded areas – the government has decided to invest heavily in public transport instead, including a £40m bus rapid transit system, or BRT, and monorail, due to open next year.