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.