HANOI • World-famous for its endless swarms of motorcycles, Vietnam is considering banning bikes in the capital over fears that its leafy streets will become overrun as the population swells and its middle class buys cars in record numbers.
Hanoi is forecast to have seven million motorcycles on its roads in the next two years - almost the same as its current population - leaving city bigwigs with a crisis on their hands as cars, buses and bikes jostle for space.
The Communist Party's Hanoi chapter on Monday mooted a new urban plan that includes a proposal to limit vehicle numbers to reduce congestion by 2020, with a longer-term goal of making motorcycles extinct by 2025, according to Voice of Vietnam radio.
But bikers say the economy would grind to a halt if Hanoi residents were denied a mode of transport they have grown up with and use to ferry around anything from beer crates and cooking gas tanks to rice sacks and small families.
"It's impossible. It will cause difficulties for bureaucrats, employers, students and traders," said motor- taxi driver Pham Van Chinh.
Vietnam's rapid economic growth has seen household incomes quadruple since the turn of the century, with one in every two of its 90 million people owning a motorcycle, and car sales surging 55 per cent last year, South-east Asia's fastest rate.
That is exacerbating the chaos in the "Paris of Asia", known as much for its cacophonic horns and snarl-ups as it is for its French colonial architecture, ubiquitous lakes and tree-lined boulevards.
Though elevated rail and metro systems are being built, they will not be ready any time soon and some Hanoi residents think that the motor bike trend is irreversible.