Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The sidewalk, an excellent place to park your car and more

I found an interesting article in the Korea Times archives. Before I get into it, I must say that the Korea Times editorial pages have great writing but seem to be mostly used as training exercises for foriegn school students. I like the articles; I'm not complaining, but there are so many with the byline ***** Foreign School (and usually it's Busan Foriegn School) that I think some teachers are assigning editorials as homework.

The one that particluarly resonated with me was about walking paths (which I extended to mean sidewalks in general). The writer, a seventh grade student of Busan Foreign School, complains vigourously about motorcycles on the walking paths.

Round-shaped stones that were placed in front of the walking
path have been destroyed and damaged by motorcyclists and
car drivers who violently try to pass through the walking path.
I was horrified to hear that the motorcyclists have been using
the walking path because it’s faster and easier than the road
which has heavy traffic and many stop lights. I strongly believe
that the walking paths should be used by pedestrians only and
not by motorcyclists who want a quick and easy way to
their destination.

In Masan, I frequently had impatient motorcyclists and scooterists(?) bump the back of my leg as a way of encouraging me to move while walking on the sidewalk and even through the market streets. Usually, I just flashed them a dirty look, enough to see I was a foriegner and stubbornly tried to ignore them. I ocassionally got an apology, probably because I am a foriegner although I am not sure of the connection. Only foriegners get apologies?

Here is another quote that really only applies to walking paths, not urban sidewalks.

In the morning, while my sister and I are enjoying the fresh
air on our way to school, a motorcycle passes by and depletes
the fresh air and ruins our day.

I also agree with this point although it mystifies me. A small engine such as motorcycles have should only sniff at gas (rather than guzzle gas like a SUV- I am trying to use a metaphor here for low gas consumption, not sudenly bring in any kind of drug culture reference) and burn pretty clean.

They should. And they might if they were better maintained.

In Seoul, I was never bumped, thank God, but frequently heard the klaxon (I've been here too long) of cars driving on the sidewalk and wanting me to move out of the way. Again, I ignored them and stuck to the middle of the sidewalk. Luckily, I am still here to boast of my foolishness.

I just noticed that I wrote the "cars....[wanted] me to move out of the way.", while the seventh grader was careful to use 'motorcyclist' and thus describe the actions of the drivers, not the unlikely desires of the vehicles. As I said at the beginning, the English is very good in those articles!

Anyway, here is one more annoyance about sidewalks in Korea. Cars frequently park on the sidewalk, but also, they park right on the lowered curb for crosswalks. I frequently, indeed more than half the time, have to walk around a car parked so as to block the crosswalk.

Vendors often set up shop on the sidewalk and, though they pinch the walking space, I find them energizing rather than annoying. Perhaps it's the human interaction and the feeling that the streets are for living in, rather than purely for travel. Here in the country, but mostly in downtown Seoul, Jongno and Gangnam areas for example, streets are alive with people just enjoying being out and relaxing.

To conclude, let me repeat Lee Ein-jin request: Please, "No more motorcycles on walking paths [and sidewalks]".

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