Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Take a ride on the wild side (Peace Bicycle Nuri Road)

The first 43 kilometers of the Peace Bicycle Nuri Road will open by the end of this year and by 2015, it should run sea to sea all along the DMZ, for 495 kilometers, doubling the existing leisure road and some mountain paths*.

The first 43 km will cover 3 "gun" (counties) of Gangwon-do, starting from the East :

- Goseong-gun (North of Sokcho, a county between the mountains and the East Sea, blessed with beaches, temples, lakes and hiking trails) : 7 km near the Nangman "romantic" road
- Yanggu-gun (a county mixing war scars and beautiful sceneries) : 20 km around Dutayeon (두타연), North of Dosolsan and very close to the border, deep into the mountains. Among the touristic spots : Dutayeon Pond, Dutayeon Falls, observation posts, NK Infiltration Tunnel...
- Hwacheon-gun (a mountainous county crossed by the Northern arm of the Han river) : 16km near the Peace Dam (Pyeonghwaeui Dam) over the North Hangang in Hwacheon-eup.

Eco-tourists will have a better access to Gangwon-do wonders. Of course, this first batch is not a continuous line yet : each stretch is too short to reach the next one, and to link Goseong-gun with Yanggu-gu you need to cross Inje-gun. But eventually, ambitious bikers will be able to ride all along the Demilitarized Zone, with eight stops along the way, specifically designed** to welcome them.

Bicycle infrastructure are a major concern for the MOPAS (Ministry of Public Administration and Safety), which plans to boost usage from 1.2% to 5% of the transport mix between 2009 and 2012 across the country. Bicycle paths will be expanded from 9,170 to 17,600 km and penetration rate for bicycles is expected to double from 16.6% to 30.0%.

A lot of money will be invested, and business opportunities reach beyond infrastructures and eco-tourism : until recently, the bulk of bikes were imported but local manufacturers like Samchuly keep improving and are receiving all the attention from authorities.

As China embraces the automobile age, Korea rediscovers the virtues of the "petite reine". The Pyongyang-Seoul line will probably take more time...

Seoul Village 2010

* see Korea.net ("
Gov't to build bicycle path along DMZ" - 20100209)

** Please, make these as discreet and environmental friendly as possible : genuine eco-tourists don't want bike parking lots blaring the county anthem with a glass building topped with the colorful county character...

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