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We Trust the Traffic When Walking Ho Chi Minh City

by Bob Kerstetter

A typical street in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam looks like this during the day…

Motorbikes Crossing at Intersection in Saigon

Motorbikes travel through an intersection in Saigon. People travel solo and it pairs. Sometimes as many as five people ride a single bike—in these cases a mix of adults and children.

…and this at night…

Nighttime Motorbikes in Saigon

Bikes travel Saigon streets until late into the night. These move along a major thoroughfare in downtown Ho Chi Minh City.

While some intersections and mid-street crosswalks have traffic lights, many do not.

Motorbikes and Cars Wait at a Rare Light

At a rare traffic light, motorbikes and cars wait. While no pedestrians cross here, you do have a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Moderately curious how you walk across while avoiding injury or destruction we observe the locals.

The results?

Saigon Motorbikes Flow Around You

Saigon has 9 million people, 4.5 million motorbikes and very few traffic lights.

Well, believe it or not, you just step out. Out into the intersection. Out into the crosswalk. Out into the traffic. We see others do it and come out okay, so you step out with faith.

And the motorbikes, cars and buses…

They avoid each other while driving around you. You become part of the get-around system in Saigon, where everyone watches for you as well as for themselves. This means you walk with give and take—politely—not as an entitled pedestrian.

While we are sure some vehicle-pedestrian collisions must occur—we saw zero in two weeks—could this type of widespread cultural consideration for the vulnerable happen in Dallas or Atlanta or Washington D.C. or LA?

Motorbikes in Saigon

Walking helps you meet people. Motorbikes, cars, bicycles and people jam the streets of Saigon from dawn until late into the night.

It’s really sort of cool. So, why not?

Motorbikes Ho Chi Minh City

Motorbikes pack the streets of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) during the day. The dark lines above the bikers are communication cables.

Cross the streets politely. You walk as part of the traffic system. Give and take at a walking pace to avoid collisions.

Three on a Motorbike in Saigon

Look closely and you can see a motorbike carrying three people—two adult women and a child.

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