Ban on old motoribkes ill-considered: experts

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Two men ride an old motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City

As Ho Chi Minh City authorities plan to set expiry dates for motorbikes, experts, officials and residents are urging careful consideration before applying such a regulation.

In an interview published by Dan Tri Wednesday, Dr. Nguyen Quang Toan, former dean of the road department at the Hanoi University of Transport, said the authorities need to compile specific statistics on old motorbikes' impacts before taking the step of banning them.

The ban is purportedly aimed at decreasing traffic accidents and environmental pollution.

But Toan said traffic accidents are not related to vehicles' age, because in fact old vehicles are only able to run at "decent" speeds and therefore have fewer chances to cause accidents. Many, if not most accidents happened because of speeding which only new vehicles can do, he added.

The ban needs to be based on whether a bike can meet regulated standards like exhaust emissions and noise, he said.

In fact, many people have used their motorbikes for more than 20 years, but they are used for just a couple of hours every day, and just a few days a month, so the wear and tear is almost insignificant, Toan said.

In many other countries, vehicles which were produced up to 30-40 years ago are still allowed to circulate because they meet technical standards, he added.

The expert also expressed concerns that the regulation could affect poor people who cannot afford new motorbikes.

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They are using old motorbikes to earn a living because they have no other choice, he said. 

"Therefore, to ban old motorbikes is inhuman. It also means a ban on poor people from earning a living."

Duong Hong Thanh, vice director HCMC Department of Transport, agreed with Toan.

Speaking to Tuoi Tre, the official said what's the most important is that bikes are tested for the pollution they cause, not their expiry date.

Many people love using old motorbikes, but they are still able to meet regulations on exhaust quality, he said.

Associate Professor Pham Xuan Mai of the HCMC University of Technology also urged local agencies to act carefully in pursuing this measure. He said there are people who use old bikes but have replaced its internal parts with new ones, and there are those who use old bikes sparingly so that there is little chance their parts will wear out any time soon.

HCMC authorities need to be "careful" about regulating expiry dates for motorbikes and should consult with the public first, said Trinh Ngoc Giao, chief of Vietnam Register the country's quality control agency, said.

He said the Ministry of Transport has no plan yet to issue any regulation on motorbikes' expiry date as it was still a controversial issue.

However, the ministry is currently drafting regulations to control exhaust fumes from motorbikes in heavily polluted cities, Giao said.

Under the draft regulations on controlling exhausts, poor people can bring their old vehicles to the countryside or distant areas and continue using them instead of getting rid of them if they fail to meet regulated standards, he said.

"Vietnam now has over 34 million motorbikes and many families are using old bikes as their means of transport and earning a living, so the matter needs to be calculated properly," Transport Minister Le Manh Hung was quoted as saying in a Tuoi Tre report.

Phan Nguyen Du, a xe om driver in Phu Nhuan District, said in the report that if the expiry date is applied, many people like him, for whom motorbikes provide a means of livelihood, would be affected.

Nghi Cam Tuong, who has worked as a xe om driver for over 20 years in District 10, also expressed his concerns about the city's plan. He said not all motorbikes breakdown after using for long time.

The quality depends on producers and prices, but, what matters is owners' maintenance during use, he said, adding that his Korean-produced motorbike has been with him since 1998 and never had any problem.

On the other hand, Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Tran Thanh Tra, deputy chief of the road transport division (PC67) under the HCMC police, which was ordered to draft the regulation with other agencies, said PC67 supports the proposal, because it will help decrease traffic accidents and environment pollution.

Since the regulation has already been applied on trucks and buses, motorbikes need to follow suit, he said.

Moreover, the regulation will help police deal with old motorbikes which are usually called "blind" motorbikes due to the absence of lights, horns, license plates and even brakes, according to the official.

"Blind" motorbikes usually cause accidents but police cannot identify their origins to handle the case, because they had already undergone many  modifications, and changed hands many times as well, he said.

PC67 will join hands with other agencies to introduce scientific and reasonable regulations to gain support from the public, Tra said.

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