As the Vietnamese socialist state privileges ‘modern’ mobilities over so-called ‘traditional’ means, the livelihoods of informal motorbike taxi drivers (locally known as xe ôm) are increasingly under threat. Drawing on the literatures of mobilities and everyday politics, and on ethnographic fieldwork with xe ôm drivers, recent app-based competitors and planners in Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, we argue that the state’s vision creates specific mobility experiences, rhythms and frictions for xe ôm drivers. These drivers must not only negotiate policies curbing their mobilities, excessive police fees and dangerous customers, but also new smartphone app-based competitors. Nonetheless, xe ôm drivers have reacted with subtle everyday politics to reshape their mobilities, with tactics including performing ‘identity management’ with police, information gathering via social networks and inventive efforts to build loyal customers. This paper thus highlights how mobility and access to urban streets are being framed, coproduced and respatialised in a rapidly growing socialist city.