The dangerous streets of Seoul?

I’m actually really glad someone beat me to this.

I’ve just come across an intelligent rundown of what cycling in Seoul is like, and I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly. 

Don’t read the [nay-saying] guidebooks, ignore the gloomy reports, instead look at what’s actually happening on the streets. 

[The 6-lane] boulevards have 3 metre wide sidewalks, they are not crowded and nobody minds cyclists weaving in and out of the pedestrians. On the road itself the traffic is calm, flowing in an unhurried way between the traffic-light controlled junctions on smooth tarmac. The big spaces between the main roads are a network of small streets and alleys where cyclists and pedestrians are safe and cars make slow progress on sufferance.

The city has started to develop a cycling infrastructure and what they have done is very promising, in a few years Seoul could be a perfect cycling city, even now it feels a lot easier than many places in Britain.

Read the rest at Seven League Boots.

Gliding along wide pavements

Gliding along wide pavements

OK, a paradise for cyclists Seoul isn’t. Indeed my initial view of people who ride on the roads here was sheer terror for their safety. But that has changed. A lot.

My first 2 months here I rode 100% on the pavements [sidewalks]. Happily, these are all shared, officially or unofficially, with pedestrians. And the odd delivery motorbike.

However, I’ve now started riding increasingly on the roads. Dipping my toes in the supposedly shark-infested water as it were. I strongly believe the actual danger is vastly inflated. (Yes, I’ve read David Hembrow’s persuasive article on perceived safety vis-a-vis actual safety.)

It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s realised.

Seoul cycle style

Seoul cycle style

A few days ago I came across an old-ish Korean article on how dangerous it is to cycle in Seoul. It nicely encapsulates the average (non-cycling) Seoulite’s view of riding a bicycle here. Here’s the meat of the piece in translation:

 위험한 서울 거리, 왜 자전거 타야 할까? – 오마이뉴스

Seoul’s dangerous streets – Why should I bike?
I’ve never once cycled on the streets of Seoul. That’s not because I can’t ride a bike or don’t like it, it’s because I don’t have the nerve.

I’ve cycled a fair bit in other cities. When I was studying in Germany I always had a bike, though it was a cheap old one. Even during my 2 months in Marburg with all its mountains, I bought a secondhand bike for getting about on. …

However since coming back to Korea ten or so years ago, I’ve only thought about trying to ride here. … Indeed it’s obvious to me that riding a bike in Seoul is a highly dangerous thing to do.

A few years ago, a German architect friend found this out. After work he told me he fancied doing some sightseeing around the city and asked to borrow my bike. … Eventually he went out on the bike for a whole day. In the evening we met up and he was satisfied but admitted it had been a fairly perilous task. If he were staying for a long time in Korea, he probably wouldn’t carry on riding. Compared to Germany it’s too risky.

As he pointed out, a bicycle is perfect for seeing the sights of a city. Cars go too fast and it’s hard to stop where you like. Likewise, walking can be laborious. But on a bike you can go at your own speed and stop for as long as you like. If only it were safer, it would be ideal as a means of transport in this city too…

Original article on Oh My News


6 thoughts on “The dangerous streets of Seoul?

  1. Hi, glad you liked my account of cycling on my visit to Seoul last month. Meanwhile I’ve just spent a few days in Kuala Lumpur and thought maybe if Seoul is OK then KL might be worth a try. No Way! The city is terrifying for people just trying to cross the road, the planners have made erased cyclists and pedestrians from the map. The difference seems to be that Seoul is a city that works for people wherever you go, KL just works for traffic and the normally kind and lovable Malaysians turn into monsters behind the wheel.

    Best wishes from Sheffield

  2. Hello,
    Your pics of Seoul make me smile, thank you 😉 I am a lazy bicycle rider in Korea, living in a rural city near by Seoul. My daily choice to work is Strida.

    You know?
    The father of Strida, Mark Sanders introduced your sexy blog to me 🙂


  3. @ Chris
    I’m just glad you took home a good impression of bike riding in Seoul.

    @ Binch
    Thank you for your kind comment. Keep up the good effort! To me, more important than what you ride is how you ride and how you look to onlookers while riding, but Stridas are quite cool looking and are definitely popular here in central Seoul at the moment.

  4. Pingback: Final weekend in Seoul [fully updated] « *SexifyBicycles*

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