Life by Bicycle

There are countless options for transporting oneself around Ho Chi Minh City. Probably the safest would be inside one of the slow-moving, over-priced, and horn obsessed taxis. If you are more daring, take a xe om taxi. Se om is a motorbike driven mostly by an older native man. However, while they know the city, they also know how to inflate their prices. The most distinctive transportation method may be a ride on a cyclo, the three wheeled bikes pushed by the pedaling driver in back, with a cushioned seat for you to sit in the front. However, one of the safest and compromisingly saner ways to get around HCMC is by bicycle.

With a bicycle you have the fewest restrictions and the safest means. You don’t have to haggle over the price of a ride as you will with a taxi, se om, or cyclo. With a bicycle and a map, you are your own guide. Sure you can rent a motorbike just as easily, however, at the high speeds of motorbike traffic you are at a much higher risk to get hurt, especially if you are inexperienced. Also, on a bicycle you don’t risk getting the SE Asian tattoo (a large oval burn on your right calf from the muffler). According to governmental statistics, 30 people each day are seriously injured or killed on motorbikes in HCMC alone. Almost 12 children are killed each day as pedestrians in this country as the result of being struck by motorbikes. It cannot be understated how dangerous motorbike travel is.

Safety is a key to looking back and being able to deem your travels a success. Going home with scars and mangled body parts tends to make peoples recollections a tad on the cynical side. To succeed, simply stay with the flow of traffic. While there are traffic laws, traffic signs, and traffic lights, most locals prefer to improvise. It is considered extremely unlucky to get pulled over by the police for breaking a traffic law, so many people do. The flow may be nonsensical, or in disregard of what the traffic signs indicate, but you’ll be better off in the flow then fighting it. On a bicycle you’ll want to stay on the right edge of the motorbike flow, but this gives you the advantage of having the easiest access into and out of the flow. Whatever you do, don’t look back and keep moving.

Lastly, to succeed with safety, we come to steadiness. You’ll hear frenzied horns, see boys zigging and zagging past at manic speeds, and witness people making left turns from the right side without so much as a glance, but remember to keep steady. If you become a part of five hundred bikes rushing down a one way in the five o’clock rush, stay with them and keep steady. Ride with confidence and pragmatic assertion and it will all pan out as it should. Keep your eyes on the road. Pedal smooth and steadily like you own the rhythms of your favorite song. If you are uncertain and make panic stricken moves, you are more of a danger to yourself than the others.
The best way to navigate HCMC safely and successfully is the exercise-friendly transportation alternative of riding a bicycle. For a more thorough view of your surroundings and a safer way to do so, try grabbing for handlebars rather than a throttle.

By James A.Benoit

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