How to cross the street

You know how to cross the street, right?  You learned how years ago – look both ways, wait for no cars, only cross at crosswalks, walk quickly across, wait for green lights, etc. 

What happens when everyone ignores the lights, there are ALWAYS vehicles, and cross walks may only be there to make it easier to hit pedestrians?  In Hanoi at least, the simple answer – just do it.  No matter how crazy the traffic, everyone is driving quite slow here – max of maybe 25mph, and often slower.  Perhaps because the stakes aren’t as high (15mph moto vs 60mph car), pedestrian here have a different approach.  Wade on in. 

There do seem to be a few key rules to wading into traffic.  First, move slowly.  Second, look both ways all the time. Even on a one way street, cars and motos may choose to go the wrong way.  Third, move slowly.

On the busiest streets, with hundreds of motobikes wizzing by, it works like this: put a foot into the road.  Walk about 0.5-1mph across the street.  Stop mid pace if it gets totally crazy.  Let the traffic part around you.  Slowly keep walking to the other side.  DO NOT make any sudden movements, speed up, or jerk to a stop.  Smooth.  And voila, you’re on the other side.

Until we learned this, it was taking us a while to get across.  We’ve seen multiple other white folks stranded by the side of the road for minutes until we’ve walked across very slowly.  They immediately follow up and seem relieved to have made it.