To avoid penalties, many local residents have voluntarily cleared pavements. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - Pavements, especially those in crowded areas of major cities like Hanoi and HCM City, are being seriously encroached, causing difficulties for pedestrians.

Pavements are used for parking, running businesses or as extensions of street-side residents’ houses. Along streets clogged with traffic, drivers ride their vehicles on the pavements in order to escape the chaos of the road.

People living along Nguyen Van Cu street in Hanoi’s Long Bien district are used to traffic jams, and drivers making use of the pavements.

Nguyen Toan Thang, a regular commuter on the street, said that he, like many other drivers, usually drove on the pavement when the road was jammed.

“[Driving on the pavement] breaks the law,” he said, “but police officers are too busy dealing with the traffic jam. They don’t have time to worry about drivers on the pavement.”

“Anyway, before fining motorbikes for driving on pavements, I’d suggest punishing cars which encroach on motorbike lanes,” Thang said.

Lan Anh, a resident living along Nguyen Van Cu street, said the pavement was quite wide but she still wouldn’t allow her children play on it.
“Pedestrians sometimes jump out of their skin because of the noisy horns from motorbike drivers,” she said.

Pavements are for pedestrians but in a lot of cases, pedestrians are afraid of using them. They reluctantly walk on the road, and many people have said that pavements were being used for businesses, the owners of which would become angry and shout at pedestrians if they tried to walk through.

Vice President of the Vietnam Civil Engineering Association Pham Sy Liem said that pavement encroachment has soared because of lax control by authorities and the presence of interest groups.

“It’s not difficult to tackle the issue of pavement encroachment if authorities from the grass roots level to higher ups determine measures and collaborate,” he said.

“Walking on the pavement was a need and parking was a need, too. Once authorities ban drivers from parking on pavements, they have to arrange other parking areas for them,” Liem told vov.vn – the national radio broadcaster.

Le Huy Tri, Vice Director of the Centre for Road Safety Research under the People’s Security Academy said that a key measure is to improve public awareness, changing attitudes and behaviour for the common benefit of the community.

Many experts agree that drivers have poor awareness of road rules.

Efforts stepped up

A team of officials in HCM City patrolled the streets and handed out penalties for illegal encroachment by street vendors, vehicles and construction work on city pavements on February 26.

Two state-owned cars, for example, were recently towed away for illegally parking outside a street food vendor’s site on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia street. Flower pots and iron planks used for vehicles to park near the pavement shop were also seized.

Bien Duong 3, a restaurant on Nguyen Thai Hoc street, had its tables and chairs confiscated while a nearby coffee shop had two decorative stone lion statues taken away by officials.

“I’m so glad to see authorities making an effort to free up pavements. The advertising boards and some nearby illegal parking areas have messed up our city’s appeal and taken up so much space from the sidewalks. Now pedestrians and tourists can walk unimpeded,” Truong Ngoc Phi, 43, a resident of District 1, told Việt Nam News.

To avoid being penalised, locals on Tran Dinh Xu street have voluntarily put away their furniture and cleared the pavements.

However, the tearing down of illegal construction on some pavements was not done in a clean manner, making it unsafe for pedestrians.

For example, though the pavements of Nguyen Trung Truc and Le Thanh Ton streets were cleared, electric wires and debris had not been discarded, resulting in a foreigner stepping on an iron bar last week, the newspaper said.

At a meeting on the city’s socio-economic development held on February 27, the municipal People’s Committee chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong applauded moves taken by officials of District 1 to curb the pavement encroachment.

Phong said that he would meet leaders of people’s committees in other districts to help implement drastic actions, and ultimately giving pavements back to pedestrians.

People applauded what District 1 had done to address the pavement encroachment and reminded listeners that District 1 was just one of 24 districts in HCM City, Phong said, adding that people expected changes to be made in other districts.

Following District 1, other districts across HCM City, including District 3, Phu Nhuan, Binh Tan, Thu Duc, Binh Thanh on February 27 took action, clearing illegal parking, construction work and businesses on pavements, local media reported.-VNA