Vietnam News

Downtown Saigon to pilot public bicycles

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Vietnam’s southern metropolis will trial a public bicycle sharing scheme in an effort to limit private vehicles.

Called Mobike, the project will see 388 bicycles parked at 43 stations in Districts 1 and 3, the heart of HCMC.

Each will be rented out at a proposed cost of VND10,000 ($0.43) per hour and half for 30 minutes, with the one-year pilot scheme expected to boost public transportation development.

The 43 bicycle stations will go up along sidewalks and bus stations around District 1, and along Dien Bien Phu and Vo Thi Sau streets in District 3, where the city is studying priority public bus lanes.

The municipal Department of Transport said Friday the city administration had last week agreed in principle to pilot the project.

As planned, all bicycles in use would be equipped with smart, GPS-equipped locks operated via 3G, 4G and 5G connections, or Bluetooth. Users will have to install the Mobike app on their phones before scanning and searching for the nearest station.

Users must top up their bank accounts linked with the Mobike app to pay for the service and provide certain personal information on registration. This would enable authorities to easily track down culprits in the event of theft or vandalism.

The investor, Hanoi-based Tri Nam that specializes in high quality information-communications technology solutions, said in future it would add more time frame options, depending on actual demand as determined by the trial run.

Do Ba Dan, the company’s chairman, said the project aims to serve short-haul travel, connect bus and metro stops, as well as serve tourists. The first metro line in HCMC is expected to start operation within next year.

Users can return their bicycles to any Mobike station, he noted.

With a population of 13 million, HCMC currently has almost nine million registered private vehicles, including 825,000 automobiles and 8.12 million motorbikes, according to the Transport Department.

Since 2016, it has been looking at ways to limit private vehicles in the city center to ease congestion.

Most recently, HCMC said in July it was seeking to invest VND393 trillion ($16.93 billion) over the next decade in a master plan to improve access to public transport and limit the use of private vehicles.

Accordingly, the city will have a comprehensive bus network by 2030, three metro lines — from downtown Ben Thanh to suburban Suoi Tien Theme Park, from Ben Thanh to Tham Luong in outlying District 12 and from Bay Hien Intersection in Tan Binh District to Saigon Bridge – along with a bus rapid transit system.

Urbanites have long lamented the lack of connection among stations regarding public bus services in the city.

According to official data, 305 million passengers used public buses in 2012. But the city only targets 147 million this year.

In 2014-18, the number had dropped by 6.6 percent a year though it had spiked to 13 percent in 2019.

City officials have blamed this on growing competition from ride-hailing services, which increased their numbers from just 20.6 million passengers in 2016 to 191 million last year.

By Gia Minh – VnExpress.net – December 19, 2020

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