Traffic: Deal With It. Hanoi Style

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

In his first piece for TTAC, our former celeb contributor Brock Yates noted that “until the underlying economics of private transportation changes . . . economies will be saddled with the private automobile, whether they like it or not.” Here in Hanoi, that truism holds up . . . only you’d need to replace “private automobile” with “ Honda Wave.” Though four-wheeled transportation is clearly picking up pace here (more to come on the quirk and diversity of said transport to come), the Vietnamese could no more imagine Hanoi without a crush of sub-200cc scoots than an American could imagine commuting on a camel. What’s a developing (or overdeveloped, for that matter) economy to do?

The inevitable explanation for Vietnam’s scooter obsession always comes down to economics, and there’s no denying that the modern descendants of “ the greatest motorcycle in the world” are cheap. $800 is the entry point for a new 100cc Wave. But on the other hand, it’s downright impossible to imagine the chaos that would ensue if even a third of Hanoi’s traffic had four wheels. In fact, though traffic in China (where the transition from two wheels to four is well underway in urban areas) seems less daunting in comparison, every auto outing I’ve taken in China has included at least 45 minutes in gridlock. On one memorable occasion, we were stuck in traffic for no fewer than four hours. Here in Hanoi, the turbulence and cacophony is worse, but traffic never grinds to the same frustrating halt. I don’t for a second believe that Americans are about to start transporting their families, four at a time on a two-wheeled, 100cc hair dryer. And yet, if you surf over to CNN, there are recent stories on both the decline in the number of cars on America’s roads and the rise of electric motorcycles.

Me? My dislike of paying for gas, sitting in traffic, the cash-for-clunkers proposal and new cars in general have me thinking about my own transportation situation. And I’m thinking I’d like something old, cheap, bulletproof and somewhat classic for the freeway and an electric bike for around town. Say a Dodge Dart and a Zero X. Or is the scooter exhaust going to my head?

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  • Ferrygeist Ferrygeist on Apr 06, 2009

    As some others have noted, riding a moto in Vietnam is actually fairly orderly and mellow, despite the swarms of traffic. I had my own moto for three weeks in Saigon, and never really felt uncomfortable, nor was being a pedestrian ever really scary. There's definitely a sense of order and calm to it. But then again, that's already a dozen or more years ago, so it may be a little more hectic now. Phnom Penh was a different story. That was definitely "throwing chance to the wind" territory. The frequent automatic rifle shooting sprees, arms dealers practice sessions, drunk unpaid soldiers with guns holding up foreigners, and seemingly random grenade parties made it all the worse.

  • VelocityRed3 VelocityRed3 on Apr 06, 2009

    @Rod Panhard Rod, aren't you being a little disengenuos? I was stationed at Ft. Monmouth back in the early 90's & I quickly learned that everybody in Joisey is trying to live within a mile and a half of the Atlantic ocean. You could damn well fit everybody in the state in Ocean & Monmouth counties, if people would actually move inland. Not to mention, that is some beautiful country. I could never understand why the interior (south of Red Bank) was so sparsely populated.

  • Master Baiter "...but the driver must be ready to step in and take control. The system is authorized for use during the day but at speeds lower than 40 mph..."Translation: It's basically useless, and likely more stressful than piloting the car ones's self.
  • Alan My friend has a Toyota Kluger (made in 'murica). A Highlander. These things are based on a Camry platform. I have driven the Kluger we had at work and I find them quite boring even for a SUV. An appliance. I hope this will deliver some driving pleasure. I found the Camry a better boring vehicle.
  • Alan Most Lexii look good to reasonable.....................until you see the front ends with their awkward grilles. It actually would look normal on a GWM, LDV or any other Chinese vehicle.
  • Tassos These last months, every day seems to be another great, consequential piece of news for Tesla, who does not just DOMINATE, it OWNS the US and FREE WORLD BEV market.It is the ONLY (repeat ONLY) maker that builds its huge best sellers at a PROFIT, ie, SUSTAINABLY. FOrd EV is bleeding 3 billion in losses. GM hides theirs, and I bet they are even HIGHER. VW has spent a huge no of billions and its ID series has been an UTTER FAILURE.Toyota, already 12 years too late, is yet to try. I doubt they will succeed to dethrone TESLA.
  • Tassos Again: I never took VOlvo seriously in the last 20 or so years.Chinese Volvo-Geely has a dizzying number of models, I have lost count how many,YET its sales and market share in the US has always been DISMAL these last 20 years.It ranges from a pathetic 0.5% to 0.8% of the US market.For comparison, Toyota has 15% and GM has even more. Tesla has almost 10 TIMES VOlvo's share, with a PITTANCE of really TWO Models, the 3 and the Y, as the S and the X hardly sell any copies any more.So why do we keep reading articles about Stupid VOlvo?Because they have the best PR department of any maker.