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