The ongoing ‘sidewalk reclamation’ campaign in downtown Ho Chi Minh City has sparked concern over its negative effects on the busy Bui Vien ‘backpacker area,’ arguably the most popular nightlife street in the southern metropolis.
Located in Pham Ngu Lao Ward, the ‘backpacker area’ includes Bui Vien, De Tham, Pham Ngu Lao, and Do Quang Dau Streets.
It houses a variety of diners, cafes, and bars which, more often than not, extend their operations onto the sidewalks and occasionally into the streets.
The ward’s People’s Committee has given businesses in the neighborhood 10 days, staring from March 1, to remove all objects and constructions blocking the sidewalk space.
According to the observation of Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters on Wednesday, local vendors were still operating their businesses on the footpaths, but in a seemingly more organized manner which allowed pedestrians to pass.
Linh, a juice seller on Bui Vien Street, shared that she had moved her tables and chairs inside her shop, leaving only her fruit stall on the sidewalk.
She says the local administration has required businesses to remove all objects, including tables, chairs, advertising banners, trees, and flowers from public spaces and sidewalks within 10 days. Violators after that period will be fined.
Nhan, owner of two diners on De Tham Street, confirmed that his facilities still allow customers to park their motorbikes in one row on the sidewalk during the day and security guards will bring their bikes to a nearby parking lot at 23/9 Park during peak evening hours.
“Many foreign visitors prefer the open space and the opportunity to dine on the sidewalk. Clearing the pavements might cause the ‘backpacker area’ to lose its distinctive features and have a negative effect on local businesses,” Nhan assessed.
Other business owners have expressed their support for the campaign but would believe that sidewalks should be separated into business and public zones.
“The footpaths can be separated by a yellow line in certain neighborhoods so we can guarantee that the pedestrian zones will not be occupied,” a vendor said.
Plans for new footpaths
According to Cao Hong Viet, vice-chairman of the People’s Committee in Pham Ngu Lao Ward, a project to turn the ‘backpacker area’ into an entirely pedestrian street on weekends has been proposed and is expected to be piloted on a section of Bui Vien Street.
Until the plan is executed, local businesses will be allowed to place one row of tables or motorbikes on the sidewalks, Viet continued, adding that facilities occupying entire promenades will be subjected to penalties.
In order to provide more convenience for pedestrians, local authorities will upgrade the footpaths along Bui Vien Street this year, the official stated.
Regarding the establishment of new walking streets, local residents confirmed that they have been long awaiting the plan.
According to an official from the District 1 administration, the plan still requires feedback from competent authorities before specific schedules are laid out.