Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bike News

The Joongang has quite a series of articles and letters about cycling and bike safety this year. Considering the snow today, I am encouraged to read that someone is thinking about warm weather activities.

It is hard to make a set of guidelines for safe cycling as people ride for so many different reasons. Children under, I don't know, 16 or so are in one group, adult commuters in another and maybe farmers and bike couriers (do they exist in Korea?) in one or two other groups.

I want my son to ride on the sidewalk and he is no threat to pedestrians at the speeds he travels (or, typically, the speeds I push him at). The way the bike path curves and bends on a straight stretch of sidewalk is not the problem for him it is for me. He doesn't mind sharing the sidewalk with other users at different speeds, nor stopping at each intersection.

I do. If I plan to ride to Yangyang or even Gangneung (20 and 55km, respectively), I don't want to be dodging pedestrians all the way and stopping at every intersection. I am completely willing to stop at traffic lights and even feel annoyed when drivers try to wave me through.

A traffic cop, he looked like a young conscript, tried to wave me onto the sidewalk and I ignored him (I do feel a little guilty about that, but only a little). In Canada, I was taught that adults cyclists should not be on the sidewalks. I try not to let my Canadian bias' take over here, but it just makes sense to me. If a commuter is going to travel even a few kilometres, he can't be stopping at every single intersection along the way, or there is no value to using a bike.

From the March 13th article:
To encourage more people to ride bicycles, we need more than just bicycle lanes. We need parking spaces, rental stations, repair stations and public shower booths.

Insurance programs for bicycle riders must be developed as well and drivers must learn to be careful about riders’ safety.

The schools must offer better safety education. In 2007, 22 percent of the 8,724 reported casualties in bicycle accidents were children.

It is a dangerous idea to start encouraging children to cycle to school when Korea still lacks the appropriate infrastructure and commitment to road safety needed to ensure that fewer youth get hurt on our roads.

I like the ideas suggested in the first paragraph. I would like to see almost a sort of locker for my bike - I have never had a wheel or seat stolen but the horror stories of such events are in my mind whenever I lock up. I don't know about repair stations but at least high-pressure air. The shower sounds like a great idea: maybe coin operated?

I will discuss the insurance idea a little later.

Letters to the editor agreeing with the importance of this article were printed on March 23rd and 24th. Both letters are fine but don't cover much new ground. The first letter does talk about the benefits of clean air, but I wonder. With the good weather these days, I have wanted to go cycling but have held back for fear of Yellow Dust, which is mostly a natural phenomenon and will not disappear even with electric vehicles or the like.

On March 28, an article about Insurance for cyclists was printed. In general, I think it is a good idea if handled properly (read, "the exact way I want") but could turn into a nightmare of red tape. If cycling insurance takes off, I can foresee a time when it becomes mandatory; a required tax with the purchase of a bike. Further, one would need proof of insurance, which means carrying a licence or papers of some sort. I want to be on the road a lot and could see the need for insurance, but many other probably just ride their bikes from their apartments to Expo Park, with only a short period of high traffic risk.

I rode my bike across most of Canada (Woo-hoo- 100th time I've managed to fit that into a post!) and have made a few longish trips in Korea. I've had problems but they've all been mechanical. I am more interested in bike travel education than insurance to make Korean (and Canadian, for that matter) roads safer.

Finally, and ironically as this is the older article, there will be a bike festival in Seoul:
The Seoul Metropolitan Government and the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly hold a large-scale cycling festival for over 10,000 people on April 25.

The eco-friendly event is part of the city government’s push to get more people on bikes as a means of protecting the environment, easing traffic congestion and promoting health.

They also agreed to team up on a public relations drive to encourage biking and promote the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit 2009, which will be held in Seoul. has info on a bike tour and festival on April 25th, although no information from city hall. Indeed the Seoul City Hall website seems to be showing sports events from 2007 or 2008, with no bike or cycling festival listed.

I will keep looking and perhaps I can meet some fellow cyclists in Seoul on April 25th.

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