Compared with other national capitals around Asia, Vientiane, Laos is decidedly smaller, slower-paced, and more relaxed. The city sits along the quiet banks of the Mekong River and boasts dozens of large beautiful Buddhist temples as well as great bakeries – a remnant of its time as a French colony – that have all made Vientiane a great place to live and a favorite among travelers.
But growth is coming to Vientiane thanks to increased foreign investment from Thailand and China in everything from industry to malls. This growth brings new problems to the city’s once peaceful streets, as an influx of cars and motorbikes leads to congestion, air pollution, accidents, and rampant parking encroachment. With poor pedestrian, bicycling, and transit facilities, the alternatives to motor vehicles are lacking.
ITDP recently sent a team to Vientiane to develop plans to improve non-motorized transport and public transit within the city. This visit was the first phase of a new program of work with the Asian Development Bank Urban Sustainable Transport program that will take place over the next 20 months in 3 Southeast Asian cities: Vientiane, Laos; Davao, Philippines; and Medan, Indonesia.
Credit: All photos by Colin Hughes
In Vientiane, the ITDP team observed many missing sidewalks, almost no bicycle facilities, and very weak public transit – all of which discourage people from using sustainable modes of transportation. ITDP’s team met with city and national officials, local transport planners, and other stakeholders to begin developing plans for an alternative path to continued growth in traffic in the city. Current ideas include pedestrianizing some streets in the historic center, implementing both a network of greenways and a transit-only street, and restoring cycle rickshaws to the city. Stay tuned for more developments as the ITDP team works with local actors to create a path for Vientiane’s future.
A growing number of Asian cities are experiencing a rapid rise in the numbers of motorized twowheelers. In many of those cities, these vehicles account for the majority of traffic. This has significant ramifications, both positive and negative, for road safety, congestion, air pollution, economic development, and climate change.
This study is a comprehensive review of the best practices in regulation and design of two-and-three-wheelers in urban traffic. While it mostly concentrates on the motorized two-and-three-wheelers in Asian cities, the review treats this mode of transportation as only one among many. It recognizes that even tightly targeted measures will affect other modes, most directly pedestrians and non-motorized two-and-three-wheelers. Therefore, in the spirit of promoting the conception of complete streets and livable cities, the review treats street and road space as a whole, discusses motorized two-and-three-wheelers in relation to other modes, and touches upon issues relevant to other modes but analogous to those of two-and three-wheelers.
In December, the Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formally endorsed a policy statement that includes a host of sustainable transport measures. The ASEAN
Secretariat is a regional inter-governmental organization that fosters cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, technical, educational and other fields. Its new transport policy is the strongest statement of its kind about sustainable transport in the region.
The Transport and Traffic Management portion of ASEAN’s new Framework for Environmentally Sustainable Cities includes the following strategies:
- Maintain and increase existing mode share of public transport, walking and cycling
- Restrict demand for private motorized traffic
- Develop cost-effective mass transit systems that meet present and future mobility needs
- Improve traffic management to enhance flow of people and goods
The document also highlights several specific activities:
- Ensure that the interests of public transport and non-motorised transport (NMT) are safeguarded in city planning. Ensure that supportive policies with respect to pricing are put in place
- Promote the use of NMT for short distance trips
- Restrict demand for private motorized traffic, especially for congested cities, through the use of appropriate economic instruments and in some cases physical restraint programmes
- Develop a comprehensive vision that can inspire the detailed traffic management planning. Particular emphasis should be given to relatively cheap solutions such as Bus Rapid Transit Systems.
- Traffic management schemes should also take account of road safety issues. This can be accomplished by traffic engineering schemes and also by intelligent traffic signals. It is important that improved traffic flow of cars should not be at the expense of NMT.
The ASEAN Secretariat is also launching a program to support pilot projects and compiling a library of best practices in each of its thematic areas, Clean Air, Clean Water and Clean Land, which cities can refer to when implementing the new policy. Currently, ASEAN members are nominating cities to participate in pilot projects.
Those chosen will be given resources to implement projects that reflect the new policy. ASEAN will help the cities secure funding for projects, sponsor visits to case study sites, and promote information sharing among cities that are implementing policies outlined in the Framework.