CITY DIARY

Should Ho Chi Minh City have more one-way streets?

DONG NGUYEN/TUOI TRE NEWS

Updated : 04/13/2017 17:01 GMT + 7

A number of expats living in Vietnam have shared their opinion with Tuoi Tre News after the city announced plans to turn several main roads into one-way streets to curb congestion.

The plan looks set to affect Cong Hoa, Truong Chinh, and Hoang Van Thu Streets in Tan Binh District; Pham Van Dong, Phan Van Tri, and Le Quang Dinh Streets in Go Vap District; and Hai Ba Trung, Pham Ngoc Thach, Tran Quoc Thao, and Le Quy Don Streets in the city center.

It also includes greater flexibility on lane division.

For example, on three-lane roads from suburban districts into downtown, two of the lanes will be dedicated to the larger number of vehicles travelling from suburban districts to downtown in the morning, and vice versa in the afternoon.

Double-edged sword

I think generally this is a good idea but traffic should be warned early enough. To change streets suddenly into one-way ones is quite dangerous and can lead to problems. Drivers might not be aware of the one-way regulation and enter the wrong way causing accidents. This happened in Germany several times. Also in Vietnam some motorbike drivers as I see in Nha Trang do not care about one-way street regulations and enter the streets the wrong way. Pedestrians might be injured by that as they do not expect the bikes riding the wrong way. It must be planned well and the traffic must be prepared.

Also, it is a double-edged sword. In one way – if the street is quite narrow it is surely helping to convert it into a one way – like many old towns in Europe do – for example in the south of France or in Germany it is a big help. In ancient towns like Arles in France or Rothenburg in the south of Germany, traffic is organized in a circular motion. You may only enter one way and keep driving.

However, a regular two-way street should not be changed into one way if there is no good planning on how to divert the traffic. Ho Chi Minh City has streets with a high density of motorbikes, so it needs careful planning otherwise the traffic flow will go backwards and all the effort to make things easier will be spoiled.

Herby Neubacher

City planners must inform road users in time and maintain their decision. It is very irritating if you suddenly face a one-way street one day and next week this is changed again. One-way streets in European cities are maintained over a long period so that traffic can get used to it.

The main problem [for traffic in Vietnam] is the lack of traffic discipline. They do what they want, they drive where they want and they never look where they go, even use mobile phones while driving and send text messages – this is a real pest. It needs more policing on the streets to make them drive carefully and defensively. It needs fines for drivers who don’t. This is crucial or the chaos on Vietnamese inner city streets will never change for the better.

Regarding small businesses operating on the left side of a one-way street who said they are more likely to suffer losses due to a decrease in their convenience, you cannot take into consideration every street vendor’s problem. This is not the business of the traffic design of a population metropolis like Ho Chi Minh City with ten million people in it. The street vendors can change to the other sides of the road or find their customers elsewhere.

Herby Neubacher, German

Drive longer, but faster

Many countries organize one-way traffic to tackle traffic jams. In my hometown, Chennai (India), the number of one-way streets continues to increase. I’m not sure if they really did study it but I think they believe it works. As for opting for one-way streets, if your city’s streets are narrow but the speed of development is breakneck, and these narrow streets quickly become clogged, you don’t have much choice, do you?

I’ve heard people worrying that one-way streets could cause congestion at other spots when vehicles flock to smaller roads, but I don’t think so. Whether the streets are one-way or two-way, the bottom line is that you have the same space and the same number of vehicles. Traffic flowing in just one direction is likely to be smoother than when vehicles come face to face with each other – for safety, they necessarily have to go a lot slower in the latter case.

With one-way streets, you may have to drive longer, but faster, and maybe happier as you are not stuck in the middle of a jam.

Radhanath Varadan

When making one-way streets, businesses on the left side of the road could also be concerned because motorbikes have to cross the street to reach them and then cause congestion. To solve this problem, I suggest we imagine some solutions like saving two lanes for motorbikes on both right and left sides of the road, with cars and buses in the middle lanes, or preparing some segments with signals allowing motorbikes to turn left.

I think the authorities should carry out the plan open-minded and pilot it in over a few weeks or a month to see if it works or not. Besides, they need to focus on enforcing the traffic laws, which are flouted with impunity in this city.

I also agree with the project’s solution to be more flexible on lane division. Way to go, I’d say. If you have narrow streets and teeming traffic, you need to have flexibility.

Radhanath Varadan, Indian

Tough problem

This is a very tough problem for city planners. I think it will be very hard to please many people in regard to traffic congestion in Ho Chi Minh City, so little has been done in the past to alleviate the problems, due to lack of funds or vision.

Fixing these problems now will take a lot of long-term planning, time and money. Short-term planning (1-5 years) will see the problems return.

To turn streets into walking areas or one-way streets doesn't remedy anything. It just pushes the traffic problems further out, while inconveniencing many. Until there is a viable alternative to cars and motorbikes, i.e. reliable public transport, cheap secure parking near bus stops/metro stations, nothing will be effective. Even in cities where there are good infrastructure and public transport, there are still traffic jams. If people need to travel 1 or 2km, public transport will not help them, they will not walk, they will use their motorbike.

One-way streets would help people passing through the city but not people living in that area, locals would use smaller alleys as a shortcut, and could turn quiet residential areas into major thoroughfares.

Dave Price, British