While car owners argue that they should be allowed to park in alleys without no-parking signs, homeowners complain that their businesses and daily activities are being greatly affected.
In Vietnam’s three biggest cities, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang, the sight of cars parked in congested alleys is common.
Grab and Uber car drivers are known to treat them as their 24-hour parking lots, as they sit in wait for passengers.
Despite taking up a large amount of space in the city’s alleyways, they are never fined or pay any kind of parking fee.
On the morning of May 28, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters observed dozens of cars parked in alley 286 of Tran Hung Dao Street in District 1, occupying half of the alley’s width.
Drivers refused to move despite the constant requests of local residents.
Phan Tien Trinh, who lives in alley 286, said households there had filed official complaints to the locall administration about the matter multiple times, but no progress has been made.
Pham Quang Minh, a resident along alley 108 of Phan Huy Ich Street in Tan Binh District, said he had lost count of the times he had engaged in heated arguments with drivers parking their cars in front of his house.
“Since the beginning of this year, Grab and Uber drivers have been constantly parking their vehicles in front of my house while waiting for passengers,” Minh said. “They’ll park for 3-5 hours straight, making it impossible for us to take our bikes out of the house. When I confronted them, they asked me, ‘Is there a no-parking sign? Did you build this road?’ Once, when I accidentally scratched one of their cars trying to get a bike out, they spat insults at me and demanded compensation.”
Nguyen Van Thanh, a local in alley 300 of Le Van Sy Street in District 3, said virtually no day goes by without him opening his door to cars and taxis lined up the entire length of his alley.
“Two weeks ago, my wife suffered from hypertension and had to be taken to the hospital, but the ambulance could not reach my house because of these cars,” Thanh said.
Hard to fine
Dang Nguyen Minh, chairman of Ward 25 of Binh Thanh District, said authorities had set out to purge local alleys of parked cars multiple times, but they had often found it difficult to charge car owners with a violation given there are not any no-parking signs.
The same problem is being faced by Nguyen Van Phuoc, chief of the Pham Ngu Lao Ward Police in District 1, who said his subordinates could only fine violators based on existing traffic signs.
In many alleys along the popular backpacker street Bui Vien in District 1, cars and motorbikes park freely because of a lack of no-parking signage.
Tran Quoc Khanh, chief inspector of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transport, acknowledged the difficulty in dealing with cars parked in alleys.
On the one hand, the number of alleys in Ho Chi Minh City is so great that to install no-parking signs in all of them would be wasteful and almost impossible.
On the other, residents living in alleys need to park in front of their house in some circumstances, and to have a blanket ban on alley parking would be unreasonable.
Pham Viet Cong, a senior traffic police officer, said that in principle the purpose of roadways and alleyways is for traffic flow, and therefore any action that obstructs this flow should be considered a threat to traffic safety.
For that reason, Cong said, drivers who park cars along alleyways can be fined without the existence of no-parking signs.
This rule does not apply, however, to those who only pull over to drop off or pick up passengers, he said, as long as they respect the relevant regulations in doing so.
Addressing the concern of business owners on some streets where parking is allowed, Cong said roadways exist to serve traffic, not one or two businesses.
“Business owners must obey the rules, as the law cannot make exceptions for every store or restaurant on a street,” Cong explained. “When parking is allowed on certain streets, the matter has been considered by the relevant authorities so as not to disturb the overall flow of traffic.”