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Bikes make comeback as urban transport

More and more people in Ha Noi are returning to riding bicycles instead of motorbikes as a way to save money and get exercise.

Ho Anh Tu, owner of a bicycle shop on Ba Trieu Street, said he sells about 30 units per day, doubling his sales from last year.

Nguyen Hong Phuc of the Thong Nhat Bicycle Supermarket in Dong Da District said he now sells over 100 bicycles per day, an increase of 30 per cent from last year.

Nguyen Hong Nga and her friends at Ha Noi University decided to go to school by bicycle three months ago when petrol prices soared.

“After using the bicycle for a week, I realised that it had lots of hidden benefits,” she said.

With the bicycle, Nga moved more flexibly in traffic jams and saved nearly VND300,000 (US$14) per month that she used to spend on petrol.

As of April 20, petrol prices increased to VND23,800 ($1.13) per litre.

“My ride is more interesting now. I can contemplate yellow leaves on roads or bunches of flowers on trees. Other drivers give me the right of way, a courtesy I did not experience with my motorbike,” she said.

Nga said the fact that her group of 10 close friends has chosen to ride bicycles means that the city has 10 fewer horns and “mobile chimneys”.

Nguyen Thu Hang, an accountant, rides her bike every morning as a way of getting exercise.

“Employees like me spend all day sitting in the office so riding a bike is the best way for me to improve my fitness,” she said.

“After a year, I lost five kilos as was my goal. And the most interesting part is that I also recovered from the migraines that have caused me pain for many years,” said Hang, who rides 5km on her bike for about 30 minutes every morning.

Foreigners living in Ha Noi are also choosing bikes.

Peter Curcio said he used to drive a car in Germany, but here in Viet Nam he preferred a bicycle since he could avoid wasting hours trapped in a traffic jam in the scorching sun.

A bicycle repairman on Nguyen Trai Street said he gave up his career two years ago because very few customers came to his shop, but recently he resumed to accommodate the new demand.

The work brought him about VND100,000 (US$4.7) per day, and he noted that most of his business came from students.

“Viet Nam has about 33 million automobiles and motorbikes, causing about 70 per cent of the pollution in the air,” said Pham Van Khanh, deputy director of the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

If half of the residents used bicycles and buses, the country could reduce its carbon production by about 80,000 tonnes per year, said Khanh.

Ha Noi has more than 4 million automobiles and motorbikes, according to statistics of the municipal Department of Transport.

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