During rush hour traffic, Hanoians have begun walking with their motorbikes on pavements to save time.
Near the junction of To Huu and Trung Van streets, west of downtown Hanoi, many people have been driving on the opposite street lane or sidewalk, worsening traffic jams.
If the drivers follow the right lane, they have to travel for a quite some distance to reach a space that allows a U-turn. To avoid the jammed street and the extra distance they would have to cover, they would choose to drive on the sidewalk.
But when more traffic police officers were assigned to manage the traffic chaos, motorbike drivers adopted a new strategy: walk their bikes on the pavement in the direction opposite to the traffic.
Typically, this walk commences at around 6 a.m. and lasts until 8:30 a.m. every day.
Traffic authorities have taken several measures to prevent violations, like blocking the space between the street dividers for drivers to make u-turns at places prone to major traffic jams, but if they do this at one spot, the traffic jam shifts to another.
It is not that people are not aware of the law, but overpopulation in the area makes the problems intractable. Hence the police can only stand and watch the bike walkers do their thing.
On a 2-kilometer stretch of To Huu, there are 40 apartment buildings. And on this narrow street, one lane has been dedicated to the bus rapid transit system. During rush hour, it takes motorbike drivers around 20 minutes and car drivers around 40 minutes to travel 300 meters.
Traffic congestion is a daily problem in Hanoi, which has 5.2 million motorbikes and around 550,000 cars, besides some 1.2 million brought by immigrants, according to police figures. Data showed 4.6 percent of annual increase in individual vehicles while traffic land in the city has only expanded 0.4 percent a year. A survey by market research firm Audience Project and Uber last year showed that a person in Hanoi lost an average one hour to traffic jams per day.
At the intersection of To Huu and Mo Lao streets, hundreds of people try to cut through the traffic flow, which is already jam-packed, and travel on the opposite side to avoid getting stuck for too long.
Some even damage the street divider to make space to get to the other side.
On a bumpy part of the sidewalk, drivers on the right lane have to yield space for drivers to walk in the opposite direction.
Hanoi traffic police can fine drivers in the wrong lane, but there is no regulation to fine the motorbike walkers, Nguyen Duc Thang, a traffic police officer, said.
For now, the motorbike walkers are sticking to their routine, getting a morning exercise that they’d never really planned.