Transportation


“We fight for the environment”

That’s the tag line of E Bike, a electronic motorcycle brand. There are quite a few of them around town and one volunteer has bought one. They cost about $500 USD, can run for about 80 km before requiring charging, and can reach speeds of up to 40 km/hr. They’re almost perfectly designed for a small city like Vientiane, where the majority of people live within 5km of the city center. Their lack of emissions might be one step towards lowering the pollution levels in Vientiane as the city undergoes exponential growth.

A fortnight ago was “UN Road Safety” week in Laos. Since then the police have enforced the wearing of motorcycle helmets. Non compliance results in a fine of 30’000 kip ($3 USD). From my observations about 60% of people now wear a helmet. The standard helmet costs $7 USD and the cheapest is $4 USD (a glorified ice cream container). The cheapest helmet I could buy in Australia was $90 AUD. It’s quite disconcerting that most children on motorcycles do not wear helmets. I’m not sure if the law applies to them. The reasons I can see as to why children don’t have helmets are that non-compliance may not be fined, children grow out of the helmets quickly, few supplies, the helmets may be more expensive as it’s a more specialised market, and it’s not something that is traditionally done here. One volunteer has had his helmet stolen after leaving it with his bike.

Another volunteer told me that his sister was in Indonesia when they first introduced their compulsory motorcycle laws. With confusion and poor publicity of the law’s introduction, some people started wearing coconuts on their heads to avoid the fines.