Sunday, April 26, 2009

Seoul loves cycling... even around Gwanghwamun !

A couple of weeks ago I received depressing news from the authority in charge of Seoul's Velib'* and bicycle lanes programs : no, no specific lanes had been planned around Sejongno.

As I feared, the city's most important touristic hub has simply been forgotten and two key touristic projects were not interfaced : the renovation of Gwanghwamun and the development of bicycle friendly Seoul. Anyway, I let them know it would make sense for both projects, as well as for the international image of the city.

I knew this situation couldn't last eternally and that something would be done eventually... but I didn't expect anything that early : yesterday, as he rode his bike along with thousands of Seoulites for the yearly downtown ride, Mayor OH Se-hoon (an occasional triathlete) announced that works would start next month. Gwanghwamun and the whole area around Gyeongbokgung will be ready for this June !

Just a few weeks to survive this dangerous crossroads on my (almost) daily ride...

* see "
Seoul Velib'" I can't help but calling it Seoulib'

addendum 20090515

More details about Seoul's macro plan (88 additional kilometers by 2014) in today's JoongAng Daily : "City to pave miles of new bike paths". I read elsewhere that cars would give up one whole lane on Sejongno for bicycles. The timing of those announcements couldn't be better : Seoul is hosting the 3rd C40, a conference on Climate featuring 40 major World cities.


  1. And the big questions?

    Can Seoul local govt link the cycle paths?
    Can the cycle paths be separate from the roads.
    Can they educate drivers not to be aggressive around bikes?

  2. They were just painting (red) the new lane aroung Gyeongbokgung last week-end.

    This path, very much like those near Boramae Park, is wide and does include specific lanes at pedestrian crossings.

    "Can the cycle paths be separate from the roads ?"

    I hope it will be also protected by some kind of hurdles : the other day, cars kept cutting through, even threatening the lives of painters.

    "Can they educate drivers not to be aggressive around bikes?"

    For starters, they could educate policemen to be more aggressive around drivers not respecting bike lanes.

    "Seoul local govt link the cycle paths ?"

    Ultimately I think all major lanes will be interconnected downtown and along major routes. Considering the speed at which change is coming, I'm quite optimistic.

  3. Yeah I live in Seoul, and change is rapid once a decision to move has been made. It is encouraging but I have some doubts about the quality (width) and safety of the paths.

    David Hembrow a guy who thinks hard about cycle paths desginates some crucial factors he thinks affect whether people will commute or not. Here are three:

    Sufficient separation from the road
    Reductions in speed and volume of traffic always help
    Cycle paths should be wide to allow cyclists to move out of the way of others.

  4. Separation from road is one thing, but let's not underestimate separation from passers-by.

    On Yeouido, for instance, people are swarming everywhere and particularly on bike lanes, both paths being saturated.

    Separations have to be efficient (ie in Paris, delivery trucks keep occupying bike lanes), but bike lanes shouldn't become fortresses nor ruin the urban landscape. Some are separated with shrubs, which can be cute but also very kitsch.

  5. Totally agree about separation from pedestrians. I always fret about hitting walking commuters if i have to negotiate a nasty road and opt for a brief bit of footpath relief.

    I figure bikes have gotta look after walkers in the same way i expect cars to look after me when I hit the roads


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