Friday, 13 January 2012

Korea Heaven for Cyclists? The Country, Maybe; Seoul, Hell No

This big sign in a subway station kind of bothers me. It's about bike trails... clearly out of the city. It looks pretty; I'd like to bike there. I've had some great experiences biking around towns and countrysides outside of Seoul.
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See, it's all well and good for Korea to be working on increasing and improving biking trails. I love that, actually, and as soon as I'm out of Seoul, renting a bike to explore the area I've landed, is one of my favorite things to do with Wifeoseyo.

But there's a problem with calling Korea (and especially Seoul) a biking mecca (and I'm not saying anybody has: this is a bit of a straw man, but I have a point to make, so bear with me here.)

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Honestly, I'm not the guy to talk about bike trekking across the entire nation: I've never tried it, though I'm sure a country that's 70% mountainous would present challenges. Small towns often have some nice places to bike near their tourist spots, and many I've visited have bike rentals available: AWESOME.

And Seoul is an AWESOME place for recreational biking. Awesome awesome awesome. The Han River Park, the streams that go all the way up to Uijeongbu and down to Bundang, Cheonggyecheon and its off-shoot up to Hansung University station, the Olympic Park and Seoul Forest, the area around World Cup Stadium, and I'm sure there's a bunch I'm missing there: Seoul is a great place for recreational biking.

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In fact, all the pictures on this post except one or two were taken on the same amazing (exhausting) day in October.

But here's the problem with advertising Seoul as a biker's haven:

It just ain't. Unless you're doing it for your health. If you're biking to work? You're taking your life into your hands.

Along Hongje Stream.
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There are almost no biking lanes, almost anywhere in the city. Those right hand lanes where people usually bike? You're in danger of getting clipped by a taxi, or having the tar scared out of you by a bus, at any time. Sidewalks? Korean people's habit (and this is by no means exclusively Korean: every culture has people who lack spacial awareness or consideration) of walking three abreast, shoulder-to-shoulder, or with smartphones and headphones, means that you're gonna need a hell of a bell, and even then, the occasional dumbarse will just stare at you and not figure out that you're ringing the bell because they're the one in the way. So...  road biking is scary and dangerous, and sidewalk biking is barely faster than walking at times.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee. Dumbass pedestrian.

Chicken or the egg: are Koreans terrible at sharing the sidewalk with bikes because nobody bikes on sidewalks here, or does nobody bike on sidewalks here because Koreans are terrible at sharing the sidewalk with bikes?

Near Hansung University.
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Here's another one: do very few Koreans under 60 use bikes to get around because Korean drivers are terrible at sharing the road with them, or are Koreans terrible at sharing the road with bikers because so few people under sixty use bikes to get around?

Why is this a problem? Utter. Bike lane. Fail. This is the bike lane in front of Gyeongbok Palace.
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See how the only thing separating the bike lane from the driving lane is a white painted line? Well buddy, cars can drive over paint very easily. So can motorbikes, buses (I've seen it repeatedly happen), and taxis seem to enjoy driving over white paint lines.

And that's where there's a bike lane at all. If I worked in the downtown core, I'd be terrified to bike there. I'd wear two helmets, and a padded suit that looked like this:


The really funny thing about the Gwanghwamun bike lane fail is that right down in Mangwon, they've figured out how to do it right:
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Those metal guards tell drivers, "Bikes only... or we'll wreck your car up"... and I bet it works!

Along the Hongje Stream, on the way towards World Cup Stadium, near the Hilton Hotel.
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And... sorry to pull this into the discussion, but it's true...

Japan completely, totally, absolutely obliterates Korea, in terms of making the roads bike friendly.

Look what I randomly stumbled across in Kyoto when I was there with Wifeoseyo: a bike parking garage! It was beautiful. I saw people riding bikes in business attire there. I saw stylish people riding bikes there. I loved it.
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Look how many bikes it can store, in how much smaller a space than a car parking lot! You know how everybody complains that there's no parking in downtown Seoul? Well...

My own theories as to why Seoul is ass for commuter cyclists?
1. Seoul is too hilly.
2. Bikes are for poor people. Korea is not far enough removed from its impoverished past to have lived down this stigma and notice how much cheaper, and how much more space efficient bikes are than penises status symbols cars.
3. Bikes are for kids. It's undignified to ride a kid's toy to work. And heaven forbid I sweat on the way to or home from work!

So nobody takes bikes to work... so nobody agitates to make Seoul more bike friendly outside of park space... the fact Seoul has lots of recreational biking options means that city planners can point at them and ignore the fact Seoul is terrifying to traverse, and horribly set up for bike commuters, and Seoul drivers are dreadfully unable to share the road with bikers, because they never have to.

Next time you're stuck in a Seoul traffic jam, though, I want you to think of this picture.
(source)
Street Space For 60 People: Car, Bus, Bicycle

Will it always be this way? Probably not. Seoulites will figure it out. Eventually. The amount of recreational biking in Seoul has increased a lot lately, so that might be a good sign for the future of bike lanes and heedful drivers. Maybe when somebody brings more expensive bike brands into the country, so that people can use their bike brand like a North Face coat, and still compete for prestige while cycling, we'll see a change. Anyway, the pretend bike lane in front of Gyeongbok Palace annoys me, and I had to get that off my chest.

Rant over.

29 comments:

Erik said...

If there's any one policy that I hope 박원순 carries over (and improves upon) from the 오세훈 administration, it's making Seoul more bike friendly. Some of the efforts were misguided and misinformed, but others, like putting in bike lanes along all the waterways in the city, were awesome. 박 says he's all about improving the lives of ordinary Seoullites through welfare initiatives - well, I think that more and safer bike lanes and better integration of biking and existing public transportation could have an awesome long-term effect on quality of life for all Seoullites. (Less traffic, better health, less pollution.)

On a related note, I was looking at http://maps.naver.com the other day and checking out the bike paths beyond Seoul. It seems that the waterside bike paths can - at least in theory - take you all the way from Seoul to Busan. I'm already starting to plan a week-long ride from Seoul to Busan later this year, and maybe I'll try to use some of those paths rather than the back country roads.

Dumbass Pedestrian said...

Actually, if you're cycling on a sidewalk you're the one who's in the way. Sidewalks are for pedestrians. If you're on wheels you belong in the street with the other vehicles.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

I'm sure, dumbass pedestrian, that you are not the kind of dumbass pedestrian who would ignore insistent bell-ringing coming up behind you... no need to call yourself a dumbass. Only a very, very small percentage of the pedestrians I've biked around are like that (though even that small percentage amounts to two or three per excursion)...

however, given the fact delivery bikes, swinging large steel boxes beside them, and moving at near street-speeds, occupy these sidewalks as well, I am, for one thing, nowhere near the most dangerous thing on the sidewalks of Seoul, and for another, careful about alerting pedestrians to my presence.

And for another thing, given the choice, yes, I ride on the road... but given a choice between biking on a sidewalk and inconveniencing some pedestrians and dying, (and the narrowness of some lanes, compounded by the number of parked cars blocking the curb/roadside area where I would be able to safely bike, and forcing me to swing into traffic to bike around the parked car, makes sidewalk/die a valid consideration), friend, with apologies, I'm choosing the sidewalk. I have a kid.

kushibo said...

Regarding your chicken-or-egg theories on why bikes aren't around, I would submit two factors that make Seoul and other major Korean cities so different from their Chinese and Japanese counterparts.

First, as you mentioned, Korean cities are generally way too hilly for a lot of people to want to trudge their bikes back up (and coming down can be exhilarating, but downright dangerous).

Second, in the post-war era the government put in place ubiquitous bus service long ago, such that few people would have to walk very far or wait too long to catch a bus, and that negated the need for bikes (and, for a long time, cars).

I don't think the association with being poor is that strong a repellent. After all, renting bikes for leisure has long been a popular thing to do in Yŏŭido or Kangchon, among other places, and visitors to rich next-door neighbor Japan would see that it's a very normal thing over there.

The weather may also be a factor: though snowy days aren't that big an issue, rain and bitter cold would be major deterrents, and then you're looking at a good chunk of the year.

WonTaek Chung said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roarchild said...

Those Scooter drivers on the sidewalk are breaking the law....though it is one of those unenforced laws.
"They are worse!" isnt a great defence.

I'm ok with someone responsible occasionally using the FOOTpath but it breaks down when more and more people do it..... imagine those 3% that don't get out of your way on a bike. They would be even bigger ****s.

Though I guess giving them a bike would be better than giving them a car (gulp).

chiam said...

I don't know what you are bitching about. There are bike rail thingers in subway stations to get your bike easily up and down the stairs. There are subway cars with bike parking now. There ARE bicycle parking lots. I know of at least three. There is one at COEX, Samseong station, and I've seen one up near Hongje near the big overpass. I'm pretty sure there are a lot more. Aren't there also bike lockers in some subway stations?

Saying bikes won't be popular in Seoul for commuting because of hills is also silly. Bicycling to work in SF is popular, and there are some serious hills in SF. I think the biggest reason people do not commute to work on a bicycle is because they live 45-90 minutes away from their office. Sure, biking to work in the morning might be cool, but after ten or twelve hours in the office, who wants to bike back only to have to cook dinner, perhaps take care of kids, etc?

And then you go out again and rail against the bike lanes with painted lanes on busy streets. That is exactly how it is done in most other cities with established Car-centric infrastructure. That's probably how it's done in most countries to be honest.

I think bike riders like to think they also don't have to abide by rules. If you expect cars and motorcycles to abide by the rules then you should as well. If they don't, and you don't set a good example, then you are also part of the problem.

I think you have said this a million times on this blog: "don't do _________ in Korea! You're setting a bad example for the rest of us", right?

So keep your bike on the road, and enjoy the vast improvements to the entire bike system. I would say Seoul has more bike lanes and better bike infrastructure than most other Advanced countries.

The thing about Seoul is this: When they decide to do something, they get it done. I'm pretty sure bike lanes plans conceived in 1975 are still in some committee in Toronto. :P

the "Professionals" said...

Chiam is smoking crack. Seoul has the worst driving in the world, with the most inconsiderate "Professional" Class of taxi drivers and bus drivers. I have driven extensively in Mexico City, Los Angeles, New York City, Seoul, and Rome (to name a few places i've heard people complain about) and there is a special something terrible about the drivers in Korea's metropolis. I've seen taxis hit pedestrians who are patiently waiting for a green light to cross, i've seen buses run 5-way intersections, and i've been rear-ended while stopped waiting for a red light twice. Twice. Not once, twice. While stopped.

Mexico city is chaos where some busy streets don't even have stop lights at the intersections. Still, in some crazy-ass way el Distrito Federal forces people to be more accountable. For example, if you hit somebody in D.F. you had better finish the job and kill them or their families are coming for you. Maybe that rogue justice is what keeps people aware. Maybe it's the fact that without a red light at an intersection you kind of have to put the cell phone down and pay attention.

Either way, the way it stands in Seoul now the drivers just don't value human life, including their own. Numerous times i've seen Korean drivers move into oncoming traffic and literally put their lives into someone else's hands (who is most likely driving while texting or chatting on the phone).

When Sri Lanka opened the new highway through the country they put TV ads on to tell people some basic dos and don'ts of the rode -- things like if you miss your exit, don't drive in reverse (naebu anybody?) I suggest the Seoul City government does try to add a bike-friendly component to the City Streets and try to educate a driving class that is surely getting Fs. It is embarrassingly easy to get a license in Korea, even as a foreigner (most foreigners with licenses say they passed the test with 0% knowledge of Korean driving laws, myself included).

chiam said...

I'm not smoking crack. You're putting crack into my mouth. The post and my reply had nothing to do with the driving conditions in Seoul. It had to do with bicycle infrastructure in Seoul. So how about staying on topic, the "Professionals"?

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

@roarchild if there were enough cyclists that they'd cause trouble for pedestrians by taking the sidewalks, there'd be enough that drivers would have become more or less aware of them, and heedful of them and the space they need.

@Chiam: fair point about setting an example...

and if this were an issue where I was, say, bending the rules to save a thousand won here and there (jumping subway turnstiles) or a few seconds here and there (jumping queues) then I'd totally be with you on civic-minded obedience.

But when it's a question of my getting to see my kid's second birthday... I'm gonna do what keeps me alive, and there are roads and sections of road where my survival instinct tells me "sidewalk" and I'm gonna heed that. You'll be happy to know that if it's a busy enough sidewalk and a scary enough road, I've been known to get off and walk my bike, rather than be "that asshole cyclist"

I'm not an asshole sidewalk biker zooming by people and tossing f-words (or 씨-words) over my shoulder. And if other cities can get by with only paint for the bike lanes, without having those lanes CONSTANTLY (and I pass in front of Gwanghwamun a lot, and it IS constant) violated, maybe they don't need steel braces to remind dick drivers where bikes go and where cars don't go. But that's not the case here. Yet. In five years, who knows?

At last reckoning, Korea remains the worst, or among the worst in the OECD in terms of traffic accidents, fatalities, and most such. And cyclists and moped users are the only two groups that haven't seen an improvement since the 90s. http://www.unescap.org/ttdw/common/Meetings/TIS/EGM-Roadsafety-2011/PPT/Countries/ROK.pdf

That says to me that The Professional's assessment -- that drivers here don't value human life too much -while phrased quite harshly - carries some water. Enough for me to opt out of sharing a single narrow lane with parked cars on the side, with cars going 80km/h.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

also:
http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20090908000032

the map is not the territory said...

I disagree that most cyclists in Seoul are over 60. There are certainly a lot of older folks, but I see just as many teenagers riding bikes. I don't see many people in their 20s or 30s out riding for transportation purposes though.

I live in Songpa-gu in Seoul, and I never thought that the bike lane situation was quite so dire. There are quite a few of the nice bike lanes around here with concrete separators to keep cyclists safe from traffic. Around here, though, there are also lots of the sidewalk/bike lane combo things, which don't work because, just like you wrote, they are basically just wide sidewalks since people walk all over the bicycle part.

www.copenhagenize.com is a good urban bicycle infrastructure blog, if you happen to be really interested in that sort of thing.

WonTaek Chung said...

lol, I'm re-commenting [I wanted to edit something on my previous comment but ended up just deleting it].

I kind of agree with chiam. and also agree with your comment.

I really do think Korea has a lot of infrastructure for bicycles and better than a lot of countries. I have been to few countries and biking lanes don't exist lol. You just bike on the walk way or the road.

But it is true that many of those lanes in Korea are built poorly. However, I think its in a stage of developing. And Korean bike routes would somewhat become similar to those of Japan in future lol. You kind of have to give Korea some slack, only 60ish years ago it had like nothing lol.

As for north face like bikes, they already exist in Korea lol. But most people use them for recreational cycling. I'm also interested in getting one this summer. I really like the parks in Korea.

lol, I think I'm too lenient with this matter, but I'm just happy the gov't at least attempted to make one lol.

kushibo said...

chiam wrote:
Saying bikes won't be popular in Seoul for commuting because of hills is also silly. Bicycling to work in SF is popular, and there are some serious hills in SF.

I haven't spent any serious time in San Francisco in the past ten years, but I don't recall bike commuting to work being that popular, certainly not on the "serious hills" you talk about.

Far from being "silly," I think hilliness is a major explanatory factor, and I see the same thing at work here in Honolulu, where bike paths are poorly arranged and there are dangerous drivers everywhere.

Despite the dangers and risks, some people insist on biking, but you can definitely see a pattern on who is more likely to commute. Honolulu is spread out east to west due to mountains that form a natural barrier just a few miles inland.

Bike commuters are much more likely to be east-west (parallel with the ocean) than north-south (going inland up hills), even if the east-west routes are longer. Simply put, the hills are daunting, and people don't want to end up getting to work or class all sweaty and worn out. Instead, they'd rather ride The Bus or buy a car. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

I think the biggest reason people do not commute to work on a bicycle is because they live 45-90 minutes away from their office. Sure, biking to work in the morning might be cool, but after ten or twelve hours in the office, who wants to bike back only to have to cook dinner, perhaps take care of kids, etc?

I totally agree with you there, and having a consistent setup where people can place their bikes on buses and subways would go a long way toward mitigating the long commute as a factor. Wouldn't it be nicer to bike the distance to/from the subway station instead of walking?

I like the idea of physical barriers separating bike lanes from the road, just to keep the cars out, but in downtown, where I live, it looks like it would be hard to do unless they majorly change the streets.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

@The Map:
the three groups who use bicycles (in general; in Seoul)

1. go down to Chongnyangni/Sinseol dong area: people over 60, who use it because that's what people used in the 60s and 70s, before people could afford cars. Look at them: they're awesome. Some are reinforced with steel rebar so that they can carry big loads for deliveries and stuff.

2. kids (in parks and public spaces like river parks, and around apartment complexes) -- for recreation

3. young adults (also in parks and public spaces) for recreation

I don't think I've ever seen someone use bikes for commuting, or anyone under 60(ish) using them for delivery or work-related functions.

Thank you, though for sharing your view of the scene south of the river: I haven't tried riding a bike there, and while I wouldn't be caught dead trying to bike around Kangnam proper, by Jongno and Cheonho, or around Sillim, etc., I wouldn't be surprised to find it much more bike friendly than some of the older parts of the city.

That said, Gangbuk needs some work.


@WonTaek: I think my original post was pretty fair, in pointing out that things aren't guaranteed to stay as they are, and have improved from the past. I don't think that the "developed quickly" argument is usable here, because before Koreans could afford cars as a status symbol, I'll bet you a whole bunch that bikes were WAY more common (hence the reason people over 60 still use them)

Erik, Chiam and Kushibo: thanks very much for your comments.

jjj_alltheway said...

2."Bikes are for poor people"
Really? You mustn't've priced bicycles in Seoul. In the U.S. I can get the Speed Concept 9 Series(triathlon) for $5.039.99
http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/road/triathlon
In Seoul it will cost me 15.590.000 Won
http://www.trekbikes.com/kr/en/bikes/road/triathlon
Road cycling is what I prefer but wouldn't even consider getting one in Seoul.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

Even at the high end there, JJJ, what kind of a car can you buy for 5000? Not a Genesis, an Equus, or a Chairman. Meanwhile, you CAN still find a more-than-reasonable road bike in the neighborhood of 200 000 won. the low end there's way lower than the cheapest cars on the marked, aren't they.

And come on. Stigmas don't need to have anything to do with reality. Stigmas and associations are emotional, not logical: Outback Steakhouse sucks, but saying "I took her to Outback" triggers the prestige associations better than "expensive restaurant you haven't heard of" because of this.

chiam said...

I work in Apku Rodeo, and there are a lot of people moving around on their fixies. Riding bikes has become a kind of sub culture. It'll eventually move into the mainstream. Hell, even the valet parking dudes are using bikes to get to the cars they parked faster.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

that is a very, very interesting piece of information, Chiam, and a very heartening sign for an old complainer like myself.

Anonymous said...

Why do westerners always complain? Why are they never content and learn to adapt? It must be that paranoia taught them by their parents and government in their countries. Or that they are taught that they 'are special' and need to be treated like a prince or princess everywhere they go.
Suck it up and stop whining. Learn how to deal with things and adapt instead of stamping your feet and whining everytime you are not spoiled by the Korean nation.
Your life isn't going to be lengthened or shortened just because you have to ride in non-bike path areas, learn to toughen up and realize that accidents and misfortune happen when you are NOT prepared.

WonTaek Chung said...

Well, I thought we were talking about the infrastructure rather than the low number of bicycles used lol.

And I think it would reasonable to use the "developed quickly" argument, if we are talking about infrastructure. Since having more bikers back then doesn't relate to having better infrastructure because it seems a lot of government think bike lanes as a luxury rather than a necessity. I would say bike lanes is a luxury because although it may sound frightening, but bikers used to used to share the road with cars. Well some countries still do.

So, its a bit of a rush for Korea, to develop and add luxuries. Thus, resulting in poor planning.

But, I am saying its likely the Korean gov't will fix it because lol... the Korean gov;t like to dig the ground literally. Theres so much digging and recontructing going on in Korea compared to other countries I've been to.

WonTaek Chung said...

http://user.chol.com/~boonstra/korea/bikelanes.htm

Is very informative on the infrastructure and how to improve them. It also contains information in bicycling in Korea.

http://dumbotaku.com/2009/09/27/most-of-japan-doesnt-have-infrastructure-for-cyclists/

But, as for Japan's lanes for bikes. There aren't that many of them... Isn't it more like Japanese are better at sharing? rather than having better infrastructure?

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

@WonTaek - number of bikes and infrastructure for using bikes are a chicken/egg case. I'd use my bike more if the roads were more accommodating. Thanks very much for the interesting links.

@Anonymous

Yawn. Go click on my "best of blogoseyo" page and you'll see I ask that same question in the very first link. And then I ask why dipshits like you think only Koreans are allowed to complain about Korea... which is total bullshit, given that I live here too.


Let me rearrange some words from your comment and toss it back at ya:


Why do people who think only Koreans are allowed to complain about Korea always get a bug up their ass when Westerners complain? Why don't they get just as upset when Koreans complain about Korea (which they do, a lot)? It must be that they somehow mistakenly think Korea is different than any other country in the world that has expats in it as well as locals, who sometimes complain. Or that they are taught that Korea is 'special' and even though Koreans complain about the countries they move to, like US, Canada, and all the places these expats come from, and aren't usually told to fuck off, they somehow think that people who move to Korea have to shut off their brains and talk like idiotic "Visit Korea" ads.

Suck it up and stop whining. Learn how to deal with frank discussion among people who live here, and care enough about the country that they'd like to see Korea become the best possible version of itself, and join those discussions productively instead of stamping your feet and whining everytime you are offered something more thoughtful than empty flattery about Korea.

Your life isn't going to be lengthened or shortened by the criticisms I have about this or that thing about Korean life, language, culture, or people, learn to toughen up and realize that every advanced society is capable of looking at criticism honestly, and seeking out what can be learned from it, and that blustering about the FACT people are complaining is an insular and unhelpful attitude.

holterbarbour said...

Agreeing with Mr. O'Seyo here. Most of the world has some snooty/snarky/condescending remark about Americans, and most of the world doesn't even live there. If I have the right to complain about the potholes in Knobgobbler's Creek, Arkansas, I have the right to complain about...whatever... in Seoul.

I can tell people to shut up and stop complaining because, hey, man up already/you're beating a dead horse/ or something along those lines, but I can't tell someone to stop complaining because they don't have the cultural/linguistic/racial "cred" to do so:

"Sorry Haji, you just moved here to Knobgobbler's Creek so quit your bellyaching about all these drunken bears pissing on your lawn."

Why do these Westerners keep complaining? Why do they fail to adapt?....Well, how about why do non-westerners complain about Westerners complaining? Why do they not adapt? (nb: asked as a rhetorical illustration)You're free to disagree that the roads are dangerous or the subject of complaint is not really all that bad, but if Mr. O'Seyo's complaint is not valid simply on the basis of his background/upbringing/education , then complaints about complaints are not either.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anninkorea said...

I really have to agree with every point in this article.

I'd also like to throw in a third reason as to why Koreans don't bike as much as other advanced nations. Public transport is just so gosh, darn cheap. I'm from the UK, so let's compare London and Seoul. Want to drive into London? Then you have to pay the congestion charge. Be prepared to cough up the equivalent of 40,000won for the privildge to do so. Does the thought of that make your wallet close up tighter than a camel's ass in a sandstorm? Well then, let's use public transport! A single in zone one starts at 4 pounds 30 (around 8000won) and goes up to 7 pounds 50 the further from the centre of London you live. This morning, my subway journey was 900won, that's around 40p. In the past few years London has seen an explosion of bikers and bike lanes because people can simply not afford to drive or take public transport. I've also heard certain subversive people claim that biking is a great way to get around and the health benefits are thrown in for free *shhh don't tell anyone*

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

Dear Anon: you got one response as a courtesy, because I'm in a generous mood.

I clean shit off my floor when my dog misses the poo mats, and I clean shit out of my comment boards when people are clearly just out to be rude.

Rule 3 on the commenting policy:
Be either thoughtful and respectful, or be really really funny.

You are none of the above. Just boring, repetitive and rude. Have a nice day.

Roboseyo said...

Thanks for the post. I live in Busan and recently got a bike, with the idea to ride to work (about a 40 minute-trip) and go for longer leisurely rides on Sundays. Because I'm riding now, I've begun to take much more notice of Busan's bikeability. Compared to some other places (Japan leaps to mind, as you also mention) it's far from being anything close to "bike-friendly", though it does seem to be slowly changing. There are decent bike trails between Haeundae (where I live) and Daeyeon-dong (where I work), and a very nice trail that goes up the Suyeong River. I see very few bike commuters - most of the people I encounter are geared-up for recreational biking.

I agree with your point about stigma due to the association of bikes with poverty. Maybe that will start to change as fuel prices rise and the public becomes more environmentally conscious. Can't do much about the hills, but the low-lying areas could do much more to promote bike traffic. The other thing I think holding it back, which you also touch on, is how dangerous the roads are. That was the main issue for me, and the reason I eventually got the bike was when I realized that there is a more or less unbroken bike path between my home and my office. If there weren't I'd almost certainly still be riding the subway.

Roboseyo said...

Hi Everyone,

My friends & I have recently cycled from Seoul to Busan and made a little video of our trip, we used this site as inspiration, this will give everyone a great idea of what it's like


http://vimeo.com/58534795


Enjoy!!

Chris