Motor Scooters Everywhere You LookMarch 13 in Vietnam
As we were driving from the airport to Hanoi, our guide started telling us about the cost of motor scooters — scooters made in China cost about $400 USD, and scooters from Japan cost $1200 USD, but are better made and last longer. I thought that this was an odd thing to talk about within our first 30 minutes in Vietnam, but I found the description interesting. Of course, I had no idea that the reason he was telling me this information is that the motor scooter is a key component of life in Hanoi!
People ride motor scooters here for two reasons. First and foremost, cars are far too expensive for most people to buy. (Even a cheap car is $25,000 USD, which is probably three years of wages for an average adult in VIetnam.) Second, the streets are so crowded and many of them are so narrow, that driving a car is pretty impractical.
The number of scooters on the roads is phenomenal. Scooters ride on both sides of the cars, and weave in and out of the traffic. Scooters drive the wrong way down a one-way street. Scooters line up by the dozens at intersections, waiting for the light to change. Scooters are parked on the sidewalks, entryways to stores, and on traffic mediums. The din of honking from the scooters can be deafening. In short, scooters are everywhere you look.
If the shear number of scooters wasn’t sufficiently overwhelming, the number of riders on each scooter and the variety of items that they carry is also surprising. Roughly one-third of the scooters have two riders — often people of the same age. But there are also scooters with three or four riders, particularly during rush hour. And, it is quite common to see parents with young chlldren on their scooter, either standing in front of their parents (if they are toddlers) or strapped into baby carriers. When I asked our guide whether it was dangerous for children to ride scooters with their parents, his reply was simple — “what choice do we have?” Since most families don’t own cars, if they need to go someplace with their children, or even pick them up from school, the kids have to ride on the scooters. Despite the obvious logic, I am endlessly fascinated by the sight of small children on scooters, particularly those instances when I saw two parents with two children on a single scooter!
Also, since scooters are the primary form of transportation, all kinds of items are carried on the scooters. You see people carrying large bundles, packages and bags. We saw someone carrying long pipes (approx 12 feet long) off the side of their scooters. Pretty much anything goes on a scooter.
Of course, there are also many accidents with the scooters. Although we didn’t see any accidents, a guy that we met on the food tour told us that in Ho Chi Minh, which is roughly the size of Hanoi, at least 10 people die in motor scooter accidents each day. Frankly, the number seems low to me, given the vast number of scooters on the road.
Vietnam, like the US, has ride sharing services. You can use “Uber” or a local equivalent called “Grab” to call a car or to call a motor scooter! The Uber scooters are less common that the Grab scooters (which are recognizable by the green helmets worn by the driver and the passenger. Apparently, ride sharing on scooters is an easy way for young people to make a little extra money. I teased Arie that I wanted to summon an Uber scooter to go back to the hotel. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind, and our guide found the very notion quite amusing. So, no shared scooter for me today . . .Read more