• Christopher G. Moore

HANOI Road Warriors

One of the features of living in Asia is how people share public space. Behavior in private spaces (homes and offices) is never a reliable indicator on how people react in the presence of strangers in a public place.

In Thailand it is rare for a motorist to stop at a Zebra crosswalk to allow a pedestrian to cross. Drivers cut in front of each other, drive through red lights, block intersections, drive on the wrong side of the road, etc. In Vietnam, by comparison, the mix of vehicles requires more tolerance on the part of motorists. Hundreds of bicycles and samlors share the limited public space with cars, vans, taxis, and trucks. As in Thailand, if you are on foot, then you must wait your chance to slip through a narrow gap as the traffic comes to a halt.

In the YouTube clip that I’ve posted, it is a scene from Hanoi. This isn’t rush hour. It is mid-afternoon. That gives some idea of the number of people using the road. The traffic jams make Bangkok traffic positively fluid by comparison. When you look at the clip, notice the motorcyclist back his bike into traffic. They stopped for him!

Then there is the father on a motorbike clutching his daughter as he winds through the traffic. Thai drivers rarely use their horn. Though this is starting to change. But Thai drivers have a lot of catching up to do to match the din of the cars, motorcycles, samlors as their drivers lean on their horns.

After fifteen minutes of watching the traffic, listing to the noise I started to wonder if my hearing will ever be the same. You will see the occasional pedestrian slip from one side to the other.

The sheer number of people and vehicles using the road makes for a public ballet, an art form as pedestrians, cyclists and motorists co-exist on a narrow Hanoi street. Notice as well the hundreds of motorcycles parked along the street, narrowing the passage to a single lane.

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