Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Discussion: Would "sharrows" work in Seoul?

The city of Long Beach, California, a community of over a third of a million people sandwiched between Orange County and Los Angeles (and a stand-in for the likes of CSI: Miami and Dexter), is trying to be the most bicycle-friendly city in America.

They will be adopting things like "sharrows," green lanes shared by motorists and bicyclists alike. This makes me think of my own time in Orange County, where every main street has a bike line; Honolulu, where bicyclists share the pothole-filled roads with cars at their own risk; and Seoul, where river courses are being turned into cross-city bike highways, but where bikes wouldn't even show up on the mental radar of many drivers, much less their visual scans.

I always thought an elevated system of bike trails over the median of major roads would be a cool feature, but no one ever listens to me, so it never got off the ground. Seoul's "townhall meetings" are always filled with people asking dumb questions about recycling.

So, anyway, here's the discussion question for the day: Would such green lanes as the "sharrows" work in Seoul? Would they work in other South Korean cities? If they wouldn't work (or even if they would), then what ideas could be adopted that would work in Seoul and elsewhere, so that pedaling to work and/or school, at least from the subway station, could be an option?


  1. It would never work in Seoul. In fact, I think it would be downright dangerous with all the taxis and buses trying to squeeze into any available space, sans indicators and nary a glance over the shoulder for oncoming traffic. Your above-road cycling lane would seem to me to be the only viable solution, but cyclists are small, invisible minority here in Korea and they'll build a cross-country canal, before they spend money on that.

    Many people complain about the motorcycle drivers driving like crazy people and as one of those drivers myself, the only reason I drive like that is to survive. If I actually followed the law and drove like a "normal" person, I would be a bus (or taxi) grill decoration.

  2. While I think my elevated bikeways idea may be a tad too pricey, the Seoul government has shown a willingness to spend a lot of money on making bike paths work (see this map), as part of the whole green thing that they're taking rather seriously. I think bike usage is reaching critical mass, though winter cold and rainy summers put a crimp in the practical aspects. Plus the hills.

    Though I get your point about why breaking the rules becomes necessary for survival, I myself would not ride a motorcycle in Seoul in the first place. The only worst place I could think of would be Honolulu, where the roads are consistently bad. I bounce around enough in my SUV.

  3. Seoul government has already started a bike only lane in certain parts of Seoul. There is a red lane which is designated for bikes only. From Yonshinnae station to about Sejul station on line 6, the road has been set up for bikes.
    I am not sure but isn't one bridge over the Han river has one side of the bridge only for bikes. That's the only bridge that has an upper and lower deck.

  4. I didn't know that about Yŏnshinnae to Seoul Station. Thanks.

    And the bridge you're thinking of is Chamsugyo (잠수교, aka Jamsugyo), which is the lower level of Panpo-daegyo (반포대교, aka Banpo-daegyo).

    I walked along there last summer (there's a light-and-fountain show on the bridge) and it is indeed bike-friendly.


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