Streets of Hanoi

Like many ancient cities, Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a maze of small buildings and narrow streets and alleys that predate motorized vehicles. Rather than seeking to control vehicle traffic, Hanoi’s streets are used by pedestrians, bicycles, and cars and overrun by throngs of motorcycles and motor scooters. So much life on the streets.

Peddlers hawk their wares in the street, taking over part of an intersection.

Merchants pile their wares on the sidewalk out to the curb and into the street. Parked motor scooters fill the sidewalk. With no space on the sidewalk, pedestrians have to walk in the street with the traffic.

Hanoi has lots of traffic in the street — many layers of traffic going around the traffic circle at the Opera. People use motor scooters to haul heavy, bulky objects like a tree or cases of beer.

layers of traffic at the Opera
layers of traffic at the Opera
Hauling cases of beer
Motorcycle hauling cases of beer, and the driver has something in his lap

Everyone seems to drive a motor scooter. Public transportation isn’t well developed.

Waiting for kids to get off from school
Waiting for kids to get off from school

With practice we learned to feel comfortable crossing any Hanoi street. We started by crossing the street with other people. We watched drivers and other pedestrians. These observations helped us:

  • Expect traffic coming from anywhere — down a tiny alley, coming around a corner. If a motor scooter can fit into a space, someone will drive there
  • We saw crossing traffic weaving, but we saw no collisions or scrapes
  • Drivers cooperatively share the road to get around while avoiding accidents

This video from Hanoi’s Old Quarter shows weaving traffic and pedestrians crossing the street.



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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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