EcoMobility Festival in Suwon
June 23, 2013 1 Comment
Can you imagine that a neighborhood in Korea removes all cars and uses many alternatives methods of transport for a whole month? For me, it’s hard to imagine but in September Suwon City and ICLEI are going to hold the “EcoMobility World Festival” (in Korean “수원 생태교통 2013″). The organizers promise a “unique ecomobile experience” and it’s the first festival of this kind in the world. The event’s brochure features the following image:
You can see a mix between public transport, bicycles, bike-taxis and so on. “One month. One Neighborhood. No Cars”, that’s one of the slogans. How can this equation work?
What is EcoMobility?
This question is easy to answer: The expression is obviously a combination of ecology and mobility, so it is about all transport methods that don’t harm the environment. However, it seems to be that EcoMobility is like a brand, which was more or less invented by the festival organizers some years ago. On the right, you can see the logo of EcoMobility, which shows some of the transport methods. A variety of electric vehicles are going to be present at the festival. You may try them out or use an electric bike-taxi.
Who organizes this festival?
The main organizers of the festival are ICLEI and Suwon, the biggest city in Gyeonggi-do. This city has 1.16 million inhabitants and the largest Samsung factory inside Korea. Also it lies only 30 km south of Seoul and there are a lot of bus connections to Seoul. Suwon seems to be active in the area of sustainable development. There was a car-free day on April 21st in Suwon (at the festival area). The goal of Suwon is to cut CO2 emissions by 40% (level of 2005) by 2030. Therefore, this festival may be important to reach this goal. On the other side, it is a move to improve Suwon’s image by jumping on the sustainability bandwagon and a way to become an environmentally-friendly city with sustainable transport.
Through this event I heard for the first time about ICLEI, which is an organization promoting sustainable development for local governments. This internationally operating organization exists since 1990. The headquarters are in Bonn (Germany) and cities can join them as members. Since last August they have also an office in Suwon in order to prepare this event. According to their homepage, they have “12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities and urban regions, 450 large cities as well as 450 small and medium-sized cities and towns in 84 countries” as official members. Wikipedia says that around 1200 cities are a part of them. ICLEI’s official mission is:
ICLEI‘s mission is to build and serve a worldwide movement of local governments to achieve tangible improvements in global sustainability with specifical focus on environmental conditions through cumulative local actions.
Behind this festival there’s a more complex structure named the “EcoMobility Alliance”, which was formed by ICLEI and Changwon, a city on the southern coast of Korea. This alliance organized a large festival in 2011 in Changwon and they promote a shift in transportation towards cycling and other sustainable modes. Since then Changwon is a Korean role-model for bike-sharing and sustainable urban development. Besides the festival is supported by UN-HABITAT. This international organization for urban development is responsible for side-events at the international conference.
Area of Festival
The area of the car-free event is going to be Haengkung-dong (행궁동), which is north to the famous Hwaseong palace and inside the fortress. This fortress is UNESCO world heritage and a famous spot for tourists. 4,300 people live in that neighborhood in an area of ca. 4,000 square metres. Here’s a map of the area (the yellow area is where the festival is going to take place):
Already on this aerial image you can see a lot of cars, which are parked in that area. The organizers promise that all cars are going to be removed and placed somewhere else during the festival period. The infrastructure will be transformed in favor of pedestrians. This will look like this:
What can we expect in September?
This event is going to show how a car-free area looks like and it gives space for a lot of alternative transport methods. There are much more “green” ways of transport than cycling and cycling. Hopefully many mayors will take a seed of alternative urban planning back home and plant it in their cities. There’ll be a big variety of transport methods because the festival organizers offered free shipping of bikes etc. to companies. That’s a great way to promote diversity and support a shift in transportation.
It’s also important to mention that there are going to be two conferences: From Sept 1 to 4 an international conference will bring experts and city officials from around the world together to discuss people-friendly transport, ways to finance sustainable transport methods and many other topics. The second conference is a national conference
Side events, which are going to be throughout September, are vehicle exhibition, test-courses, street performances, traditional cultural performances and a Korean thanksgiving event (because during that time is Chuseok). I can imagine how the streets are going to become alive on the weekends and be packed with visitors.
This is just the beginning…
With this post I wanted to introduce the EcoMobility Festival. Today I visited the festival side and the constructions are already in full swing. I’ll put up a whole series of blog posts about this event. You can expect to see a closer look at the program of the international conference, a selection of my pictures from today (and hopefully at least one more visit before September) and, of course, a visit to the festival in September.