Seoul wants to become a cycling city. Just recently, the city introduced bicycle crossings that allow cyclists to ride across a street. However, these bicycle crossings have large design flaws and it creates inconveniences for cyclists.
Discovery of the Bicycle Crossings
At the beginning of June I passed by City Hall Station (Line 1 and 2) in Seoul when I saw new paintings on a main intersection: A bicycle path was painted next to the pedestrian crossing in a bright orange color. I directly took out my phone and made this picture:
The bicycle crossing didn’t exist a week before. The painting is only at the crossing. Over the next days I discovered the same facility at other places. According to Yonhap News, the bicycle crossings were installed at nine intersections around Anguk Station, Namdaemun, Sejongro and City Hall Plaza. The total costs are 83 million KRW (70,000 USD).
You’ve probably recognized the problem: The bicycle crossing ends at a high curb. A ramp is missing. The painted path leads from a high curb to another high curb, which makes it completely useless for cyclists.
I posted pictures about the wrong-designed bicycle crossings on Kojects’ Facebook page. A lot of readers shared my frustration and the pictures attracted the attention of The Korea Times. They called me to talk about my experience with these bicycle crossings and how well developed the bicycle infrastructure in Seoul is in comparison to German cities. The article was published a week later with my interview and other information. Later, Chance Dorland from Korea FM put together an episode about this issue.
The reporter from The Korea Times also asked me if I complained to the Seoul Metropolitan Government about the bicycle crossing design failure, but at that time I didn’t even thought about it. Actually, it was a good idea. A few days after the interview I took again some pictures of the high curbs and used the smartphone app by the Korean government that allows you to report any inconveniences directly to the officials. The app has a category for issues related bicycles.
The following graphic is a compilation of screenshots. On the left you can see the pictures that I attached. Then I wrote a title, detailed explanation in broken Korean with the demand for ramps and the location of the inconvenience. On the right you can see the status of my complaint.
My complaint was transferred from Jung-gu to Seoul Metropolitan Government on the same day. Then a week later I received a reply by a Seoul civil servant who works the bicycle planning division. The civil servant wrote that the bicycle crossings have been installed on bicycle priority roads. On such roads the cyclists have to use the far right side of the street. This means that the cyclists aren’t supposed to use the sidewalk at all and that’s the reason for the missing ramps. Further the person mentioned that according to Korean traffic law, cyclists have to dismount and push their bicycles at pedestrian crossings. But the bicycle crossings allow people to stay on their bicycles and ride from one side to the other. The purpose of the bicycle crossings isn’t to provide cyclists a safe crossing from sidewalk to sidewalk, it assists cyclists in crossing from one side of the road to the other.
If you are interested in the full explanation in Korean by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, please click on the title below.
Full Answer of Seoul (Korean)
Wrong Step, We Need Bicycle Lanes Instead
Why did Seoul do this? It seems to be the simplest and cheapest measure but it isn’t the step that we need now. The bicycle crossings is more than an example of bad design. It’s a proof of bureaucracy and a lack of real understanding what cyclists need. Crossing the street is less important than safe cycling on the road. As Streetblog says, bicycle sharrows don’t make streets safer. Traffic calming and dedicated bicycle infrastructure is what Seoul has to implement. Now.