bike advocacy, bicycle tour, bicycle safety


Selected Elements of Korea's Non-Motorized (Bicycle, Pedestrian & Inline Skate) Infrastructure and Facilities Engineering





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Bike parking at Sangwon Temple
Click on any thumbnail picture in this article to see an enlargement of the picture.  The enlargements are generally much clearer than the thumbnails.
This is a brief look at bicycle, pedestrian and inline skate facilities in South Korea.  It is by no means comprehensive.  Historically, Korea has been a walking country and still is.  Compared to late 20th century levels of participation, bicycling has been booming since the millennium, but it is still dwarfed by walking. 

The town with the oldest active bicycle program is Sangju (the self-proclaimed bicycle capital of South Korea). The province with the most active program is Jeju Island, which is discussed near the bottom of the article.  There are also more detailed descriptions of bicycle infrastructure in Daegu, Gyeongju, Sangju and the Nationwide Network.

South Korea: dike roads and farm access roads can be excellent for bicyclingNot explicit in the article, but definitely not to be overlooked, is that South Korea has thousand of miles of sealed, low-to-no-volume secondary, tertiary, dike and farm roads, which while not explicitly bike facilities, can be de-facto bikeways and make for extraordinary pleasurable bicycling.  It also has far more engineering and design elements specifically for bicyclists and pedestrians than are documented in this report and is building more all of the time.  Further more, the non-facilities aspects of bicycling are very positive; the country land use policies preserve huge swaths of agricultural and wilderness areas, and outside the cities, motorists tend to be very patient and courteous to cyclists. 

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Accommodation for Pedestrians

Pedestrian only street, Jeju Pedestrian only street, Daegu Pedestrian only street, Jinju
The most lively, vigorous, and social sections of many Korean towns are their pedestrian only streets and central markets.  Because of land use, density and scale, most business districts in Korea lend themselves to being pedestrian and bicycle friendly, especially when they take steps to restrict motor vehicles. These districts are the jewel of many cities.  They invite you to slow down and spend time in the area -- which, of course, is what the businessmen hope for.  The three photos above are samples for (left to right) Jeju, Daegu, and Jinju.

[Note: the central markets are being undermined by urban-edge, car-oriented, big box stores.  These would be comparable to giant Targets and Sears.]

Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, Seoul, South Korea A major pedestrian, quality-of-life and environmental quality project in the heart of Seoul is the restoration of Cheonggye-cheon (stream).Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, Seoul, South Korea Prior to the restoration this heavily polluted urban stream was completely encased and the corridor used for a highway.  The day lighting of the stream and installation of riverside walks, vegetation, waterfalls and public art was completed in October 2005.  The water is now crystal clear and attracts large crowds on sunny weekends.
Wheel chair ramp at entrance to Daegu underground Wheel Chair lift in Daegu undergroundThe raised entrance to the underground (left) is to keep torrential rains from flooding the system.  The ramp has been installed to help the disabled and there is a lift (right) that will take them to between the street and underground level.  The vast majority of entrances to the system are not this accommodating to people with disabilities -- escalators and elevators providing access to the stations are rare as well.
Bike gutter on stairs to underpass in Seoul These stairs (left) lead up from one of the pedestrian underpasses that are common under and along the major arterials in Seoul and other large cities with heavy traffic.  A particular feature of this set of stairs is the bicycle rail or gutter along the side to make it easier to use the system with a bicycle. 

The extensive system of subterranean tunnels around the stations often incorporate linear retail malls of small boutiques, gathering points and could server as bomb shelters if the country was attacked.

Pedestrian overpass with markings for visually impaired, Seoul Increasingly, on pedestrian routes, yellow pavers are incorporated to aid the sight-impaired.  The yellow bricks feature several different texture to indicate various items and have surfaces that are different from the general walkway.  In this picture, there is a continuous yellow path along the sidewalk, which "T's" at the stairs.  There is a different texture of pavers at the junction and at the foot of the stairs.  While great for the sight-impaired, these textured surfaces play havoc with inline skates.  In this picture the red pavers are for pedestrians and in the next pictures the red pavers are intended to indicate the lane for bicyclists.
Sidewalk with markings for visually impaired, Hadong, South Korea Throughout the country, even in small towns, sidewalks are built with colored and texture pavers.  This picture was taken in Hadong in an area that is mostly used by pedestrians.  There are raised yellow bricks in the middle of the sidewalk for the sight impaired.  These "T" into a different texture of pavement at the intersection.  This illustrates another design standard that we don't understand as well; where green pavement is for walking and red pavement is for bicycling.  Besides being very narrow, the red "bikeway" is adjacent to the buildings and opening doors.  Presumably there will be sight impaired users on the sidewalk as well, going down the center following the yellow bricks.
In-street bike / walking lane, Hwacheon, South Korea On this street (left), which approaches a school in Hwacheon, on the right side of the street, pedestrians and bicyclists are expected to share a painted lane that is at grade with motor-vehicles. (What there is of a sidewalk is very Car parked in bike / walking lane, Hwacheon, South Korea narrow and obstructed.  On the left side of the street, pedestrians have a sidewalk, as well.)

Looking the other direction (right) at he same location, a car is parked in the pedestrian / bicycle "lane".

Pedestrian and bicycle facilities leading to school, Hwacheon, South Korea Here is more detail of the pedestrian facilities, in Hwacheon, as they approach the school.  Pedestrian movements are controlled by fencing.  There is a speed-bump to slow motor vehicles. Yellow textured pavers are available to assist the sight-impaired.
Pedestrian and bicycle facilities leading to school, Hwacheon, South Korea (Left) Still at the same location in Hwacheon, as in the three preceding pictures, this pictures reinforces that even the best infrastructure isn't going to work as well if it is encroached upon.  The bicycle facility is also narrowerCar parked in bike / walking lane, Hwacheon, South Korea than would be recommended by most design standards and block by a motor cycle..

Also in the vicinity of the school (right), several cars are parked in the bicycle / pedestrian lane.  The graphics behind the car show both pedestrians and a bicycle.  Parking in pedestrian and bicycle facilities seems to be a fairly common behavior.

The typical marked street crossing in Korea usually consists of essentially three lanes: a set of bars for pedestrians crossing left to right, a set of bars for pedestrians crossing right to left, and a narrower unmarked lane for bicyclists (at the top of the picture) - presumably for bicyclists crossing in both directions.
Soiuth Korean bus shelter Another aspect of South Koreas complete transportation infrastructure is its far-reaching mass transit system that make is fairly easy to get by without a car throughout Korea:  The big city like Seoul and Busan, have subway systems.  There are commuter, intercity, express and high speed trains to all regions of the country.  There is even more coverage by the bus system which has city buses, district buses, regional buses and cross-country buses.  On the coast there is an extensive system of ferries serving hundreds of islands.  With a combination of these systems you can get to almost every village in the country.  That bus shelters display extensive route and system information is indicative of a transportation infrastructure -- unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much hesitation when locating a bus shelter in what is other wise marked as a bikeway.  Which leads us to more about bicycle facilities...

Bicycle Facilities

Han River bicycle path, Seoul, South Korea Aerial view of a small section of SeoulOne of the nicest features of Korea's bicycle infrastructure are paths along rivers.  The highest concentration of these is around Seoul, but projects are underway to link routes along the major rivers to create a nationwide network of bike paths.
  In Seoul, along the Han River and several of its tributaries there are wide, flat, car-free non-motorized facilities. You certainly don't realize that you are in a metropolitan area of more than eleven million people.  There is a Seoul bike trail map (PDF) (check the boxes at the top to add features - the first box on the left is for bike trails), but it is only in Korean and it has been hard to find a hard copy.
Han River bicycle path, Seoul, South Korea To the left, is a section of  the path along the south bank of the Han River, Seoul, where it bridges a tributary.

Around the country, there are hundreds of miles of non-motorized facilities along rivers, including in Gyeongju, Jinju, Sangju, Busan, Hwacheon, Mungyeong and Deagu.

Bike and jogging trail, Jinju In Jinju there is a non-motorized river side facility, but some of the facilities are on the left bank and some of the facilities are on the right bank.  Unfortunately they are not well connected to each other, but each facility is very nice by itself.
Bicycle, jogging, walking trail along the river, Jinju, South Korea Besides many of the riverside trails, the area in the flood plain and the area inside the dikes is sometimes used for other kinds of recreation facilities like basketball and volleyball courts, inline skating ovals and soccer fields.
Safety awareness course, Jinju, South Korea Part of the riverside trail facility in Jinju is this bicycle safety awareness course for kids.  It incorporates a variety of intersections, Traffic signs, safety awareness course, Jinju, South Korea signs, signals, stripping, curb penetrations and traffic situations.

As part of the bicycle safety awareness course for kids in Jinju is a display of international traffic signs and their explanations.

Bike way following the river, Hwacheon, South Korea Where riverside trails have been built, it is not unusual for there to be non-motorized facilities both at street level and near the river side, as seen in this photo.  The facilities near the river are generally in the flood plain so might not be accessible at all times.
Rural road along dike, South Korea In the flat lands and agricultural areas dike / levy roads and "tractor roads" are other great features of rural South Korea.  Because the roads are mainly for local access and not design for high speeds they have very low traffic volumes.  These sections can be strung together to map out long distances rides that are idyllic and virtually care-free.  They aren't always smooth enough to comfortably accommodate inline skaters.
Rural track, Geumil Island, South Korea Dirt tracks are very much the exception.  Except in the national parks most primary, secondary and tertiary roads are paved.  We had to go out of our way and ignore a beautiful paved, almost car-free road, to find this track.
Iron-horse, two-wheel tractor, South Korea This is a unique moment of heavy traffic on a rural road.  The convergence of three "iron-horses" (two-wheeled tractors towing trailers) at once is very rare.  These machines, with different accessories, can be used to haul goods, till fields, pump water and take the family to town to do the marketing.  There are rural roads like this all over the country that make for very scenic, relaxing and enjoyable bicycle touring.
typical road cross section with wildlife overpass, Saraksan National Park The system of rural highway cross section was largely filled out and paved in the 1960's and 70's.  As they have been repaved and upgraded in subsequent decades paved shoulders have been added to many.  The scened to the left has the added feature of wildlife overpass.  Newer, late twentieth century era, intercity highways, in more densely populated areas, typically have at four lanes with paved shoulders.  Bicycle are often allowed on these but it is generally not a very pleasant traveling experience.  The latest generation of highways full limited access expressways, which prohibit bicycles.
Road with steep drop-off, Sancheon, South Korea This is a typical rural highway.  It doesn't give a sense of how wide the lane is, but they are usually plenty wide (three meters).  Even with the wide lane, there is also a paved space outside the edge-line. In this section the paved shoulder is narrower than most.  The picture is mostly about the sign, which is not at all uncommon in a country with hundreds of rivers and streams that are often paralleled by roads.
Expressway construction near Uljin, South Korea Cycling may get even better on rural roads:  Throughout the country there is a huge amount of construction on express ways.  These roads tunnel in onside of a hill and pop out the other and then float above the valleys in between the mountains.  As they get completed they pull long distance traffic off the old highways leaving more spaces for cyclists.
Women doing errands by bicycle, Hadong, South Korea A group of women cyclists in Hadong -- some use the roadway and others use the sidewalk.   Per-capita, bicycling seems to be more common in small towns and villages.
Woman and child doing errands by bicycle, Gapyeong Woman doing errands by bicycle, GapyeongWoman and child (left), and woman (right) doing errands by bicycle, Gapyeong.  They are using the main road surface of a main arterial.
Kids on a recreational bicycle ride, Jinbu, South Korea These kids, in Jinbu, seem to be out for a recreation ride.  They were very disciplined at getting off there bikes to cross roads as they road across town.  Kids took advantage of the various forms of grade separated bicycle facilities a lot.
Combined bicycle / pedestrian facility, Seoul Korea: Seoul bike lane in front of royal palaceOn the other hand, to often, bicycle facilities along major urban arterials, if they exist, can be a bit of a mish-mash without standardized design treatments, or dimensions. More often than not the intent seems to be for bicyclists and pedestrians to use the sidewalks together.  While the sidewalk shown on the left is wide and clear, it is not uncommon to find them full of bi-directional bicyclists, pedestrian users, vendors, street furniture and parked cars.  Some facilities use different surface colors and different surface textures to indicated the intended user group.
Bicycle rack, Seoul The standard bike rack for Korea (left) is an upgrade of the classic "wheel bender."  In this case, it is nicely set back from the traffic flow of the sidewalk.  You see them around Seoul and other large and small cities, and at museums, and historic and cultural sites in the country. Informal bicycle parking, Seoul

Because bike parking stations are few and far between there is also plenty of  informal bicycle parking, especially near an entrance to the subway in Seoul.

Inline skaters on a day tour. Flanked by warning vehicles ahead and in the rear, inline skating clubs take day-tours along the country roads in the flat river valleys.  This group, passed between Hadong and Gurye, had a couple dozen members in it.
South Korea bike tourer South Korea bike tourerTouring cyclist seem to be very rare in Korea outside of Jeju Island, but this is one fellow traveler that I met.  He had cycled from Seoul to the southeast part of the country in less that a week.  Using a more serpentine route it had taken me three times as long.
Bicycle shop, Hwacheon, South Korea If such a thing exists, this is a pretty typical bike shop; small, doors wide open, some of the stock spilling out on to the street and repairs being done right inside the front door.  Sometimes repairs are done out on the sidewalk as well. 
Bicycle shop, Gyeongju, South Korea Because of protective tariffs most bikes in Korea are domestically manufactures.  Import cycling equipment is relatively expensive.  The domestic bicycle industry produces a little over a half million units a year.  (By comparison, the domestic automobile industry produces over three million units a year.)
Han River bicycle path, Seoul, South Korea Bike club on a day ride outside of Seoul, South KoreaKorean cyclists are often well equipped and well dressed.  Many cyclist on the trail system use racing bikes.  All of the cyclist in these to pictures have nice mountain bikes, many with suspension.  There is much greater use of helmets by the recreational users (on and off road) than utilitarian users (on road). This facility (left) is also smooth enough for use by inline skaters.


Park, Daegu Park, DaeguAnother nice quality of Korea's third largest city, Daegu, at least in the center of town, is parks and open space.  They have a program to plant trees, create parks, and remove street walls.  The effort has already created a positive impact on the local climate -- cooler summers.


Daegu, while mostly flat, with a moderate climate, doesn't serve wheeled non-motorized travel as well.  The small neighborhood streets are generally discontinuous and indirect.  The through roads are huge, multi-lane, high speed and offer no accommodation to non-motorized vehicle, or the intended facilities are the sidewalks that have irregular surfaces, are used for parking, or have other impediments. 

Daegu has both established bicycle and inline skater groups advocating for transportation alternatives ( and Daegu Green Consumer Network Meeting). 

While out bicycling in a group it is possible to commander a lane and feel pretty comfortable.  Commuting solo on the arterials there is no comfort zone and the traffic is pretty aggressive and intimidating.

Concrete objects blocking the sidewalk, Daegu The situation on this street in Daegu, which at times is packed with pedestrians, is a narrow street, where, very appropriately, authorities don't want any parking -- particularly on the sidewalks. But, instead of solving the problems by educational initiatives and intensive enforcement directed at motorists, they have placed a lot of low lying cement obstacles on the sidewalk.  So the treatment itself is directed at motorists, but the greatest negative impact of the treatment falls on pedestrians, who already must negotiate utility poles and a variety of other obstacles.
Tyipical crosswalk in South Korea Detail of crosswalk blocked by telephone booth and kiosk.These pictures, also in Daegu, show a wide crosswalk, crossing a wide road, but on closer examination (right) half of the crosswalk is blocked by telephone booths, poles and other objects.

Gyeongju / Lake Bokum Resort / Bulguksa (Temple)

  While bicycling is relatively rare in most medium and large size cities in South Korea, Gyeongju is a notable exception.
Gyeongju bike map Gyeongju is the center of cultural and recreational tourism activity.  This has prompted the development of a network of miles of non-motorized facility but they don't always ace the implementation -- they aren't as homogeneous as the lines on the map would indicate. 

Grade separated bicycle / pedestrian underpass, GyeongjuDone well are some nice underpass facility where a grade separated has been build for pedestrians and bicyclists along arterials.  Similar facilities have been built in other areas, include as part of railroad underpasses in relatively rural areas.  Unfortunately sometimes the transitions at the ends of underpasses aren't up to the same standards.

Group bike day-trip, Gyeongju, South Korea Rental bikes, including a tandem, GyeongjuA common weekend activity is for families or groups of friends to head for Gyeongju and rent bike to tour the city, or go for a longer rural bike tour. There are several bike rental shops, including one at the train station.  Bicycle rental business often have tandems (bicycles-built-for-two) available for rent as well.
Group bike day-trip, Gyeongju, South Korea Nun touring the cultural sites of Gyeongju by bike.A group of young women (left) are taking a bike tour of the cultural sites in Gyeongju and a group of nuns (right) are doing the same.
Tandem bike, bicycle-built-for-two, South Korea Here, a couple enjoys their excursion on a tandem.  As seen in this picture and the preceding frames, an excessively lower seat height is the norm among most of the cyclists in this area.  This suggests that they aren't regular bicyclists.  Their technique would support this hypothesis -- all the more reason to make sure that facilities are designed to the highest standards.
Bicycle parking at Gyeongju Station Informal bicycle parking in Gyeongju, South KoreaWith the general encouragement of bicycling there is demand for bicycle parking.  Identifiable bike parking areas like those at Gyeongju railroad station (left) seem to be rare in the downtown area.  It is more common to see bicycles parked opportunistically on the street (right).
Bicycle, blading and walking paths, Gyeongju, South Korea Three parallel facilities have been built in the flood plain at Gyeongju.  The one near the river is designated for walkers (pink), the path to the right of it (green) is for inline skaters and the third (dark red) is a bicycle path.  There are also bike / pedestrian facilities at street level.
Pedestrian, bicycle bridge, Gyeongju, South Korea This pedestrian and bicycle bridge crosses the flood plain, and over the river side non-motorized trails.  It connects the central business district of Gyeongju with a university area.  Atypically, the route for motor vehicle is several kilometers longer.
This is a typical red and green sidewalk linking Gyeongju and Lake Bomun Resort area.  The green is intended for pedestrians and the red is for bicyclists.  The street trees are in the pedestrian half so they shouldn't affect bicyclists too much, unless pedestrians step into the path of a bicyclist to avoid a tree.  The uneven surface of the pavers is annoying for cycling and totally discouraging for inline skaters.
On the other side of the road from the facility above is the facility shown on the left.  It is divided into two lanes and wide enough for two-way traffic.  It is generally smooth enough for inline skaters.  It also has some nice features like barriers to discourage cars from driving down or parking on the path and pull-out parking areas for bicycles (upper center of the photo).
This trail is seen going from Lake Bomun on the north side of Bukcheon towards Gyeongju.

The road on the west side of Lake Bomun has a bike facility/sidewalk on only one side of the road.  Lake Bomun bicycle facility / sidewalk. South KoreaThe steepness of the hill is not very apparent in the photo, but it means that cyclists going up hill will be going slow and a possibly a little wobbly and cyclist going down hill will be going fast and potentially a little wobbly.  Generally, this speed differential and dynamic indicates that you need a wider facility for a given volume of traffic than you would need for a flat area, but this facilities with its street trees and fat light stand bases is functionally narrower.  As you go further towards Bulguksa the terrain gets hillier and sidewalk facilities degrade and the traffic situations get more complex.  Hopefully the skills of the recreational bicyclists going that directions ramp-up appropriately quickly.


Sangju (Bicycle Capital of South Korea)

Bike facility on the outskirts of Sangju Bike facility on the outskirts of SangjuThe bicycle facilities in Sangju start well before you get into town, but first impressions might make you apprehensive.  The spaces is wide enough and generally smooth enough to be admirable, but they have a lot of penetrations (driveways and cross traffic) and suffer from the chronic phenomena of being used for car parking, as can be seen in both of these photos.
Sangju City, South KoreaFurther into town the Sangju's commitment becomes more apparent.  The Nakdong River and its tributaries run along the north and east side of the town.  The are trail facilities along most of the dikes, with underpass for grade separated crossing at the major road.  The city itself is set in a flat valley, among hills, which makes it very bicycle friendly.
Arterial road on the west side of SangjuAs the arterials approach the town center, the pedestrians and bicyclists are provided separate facilities and the bike lane is separated from the motor vehicle lane by a physical barrier so there is less parking in the bike lane.  Some bicycle transportation engineers would question the safety of this style of barriers and segregating the bike lane with a physical barrier raises other issues, but Sangju is at least demonstrating a commitment by investment to bicycling.
Bicycle sculpture, Sangju, South Korea Bicycle sculpture, Sangju, South KoreaBicycle sculpture, Sangju, South KoreaSangju further declares its commitment to bicycle transportations with its investment in bicycle art.  The sculpture on the left is along Highway 25, the main east-west aterial in town, and the sculpture on the right is in a riverside park. Sangju also host a big bicycle festival every year in the fall.
This bridge on the edge of Sangju has been modified with barriers that limits access for motor vehicle to one side of the bridge and dedicates half of the bridge to bicycle traffic.  In our very short survey of traffic across the bridge, the bicycle side was carrying more traffic than the motor vehicle side!
In the downtown core some of the streets around the market are blocked to motor vehicles and on the main street there are bike racks every 100 meters -- which are heavily used.  City official say that there are about 85,000 bicycle in the city.  An average of two bicycles per household.  Elsewhere there is the statistic that Sangju has a population of about 120,000, which puts the average household at about three people.
Sangju, South Korea, river side bike trailThe number of students using bicycles is given as approximately 14,000.  When the school day ends they flood the streets heading in all directions.
Sangju, South Korea, 
solar power light bike trail. Sangju, South Korea, river side bicycle 
trailOutside downtown, there is a 63km-long bike path, which is paved with asphalt made from recycled rubber and lit at night with solar powered lights (right).
Sangju Bicycle Museum, South Korea Sangju Bicycle Museum, interiorFittingly, Sangju is also home to the Bicycle Museum.  It is built on the site of a closed school, about 5 km west of the center of town.  You can get there on the riverside trail, but it is not well signed.  Besides a variety of exhibits on the the history and technology of bicycles, there are a variety of bicycle out in the front that visitors can try for themselves.

Jeju-do (Cheju Island)

Boardwalk with public art, along the seawall in Jeju City, Jeju Island The waterfront in Jeju City, Jeju Island, is a beautiful, broad, promenade along a seawall.  For the length of the wall there were a variety of decorative treatments and sculptures based on local themes.  It is an excellent car-free space.

Non-motorized accommodation on Jeju Island is interesting because the facilities are fairly wide spread, but rarely great.  It seems to be mainly designed to serve visitors (tourism is one of Jeju's main economic sectors). But, should bicycle tourism really become popular it could be frightening because most of the facilities are for minimum capacity and poorly implemented.  For better or worse, this is unlikely to occur because there is so much accommodation of motor vehicles they are on there way to dominating every corner of the island, squelching most hope to entice people on to bicycles and develop a more environmentally friendly model of tourism.

Bike lane, highway 12, Jeju Island, South Korea A major feature of Jeju Island is almost continuous bicycle lanes on highway 12, which circumnavigates the island.  Generally there are bike lanes on both sides of the roads.  The facilities tend to be the best where they are least likely to be used.
Bike lane, highway 12, Jeju Island, South Korea Outside of built-up areas the Jeju highway 12 bike lanes are separated from the main travel lanes and wide enough to be used by farm equipment and light duty trucks as access roads.  Because highway 12 is often a limited access road way, several times I encounter cars and tractors driving the wrong way down the side lane to access some property. The farm equipment in particular deposits clods of mud on the track and because of the barrier between them and the main road they never get blown clean by the high speed traffic.  Often they are much worse that shown here, with deposits of sand, gravel and broken glass.
Bike lane with bus shelter, highway 12, Jeju Island, South Korea At this point Jeju highway 12 has been widen to add a bus stop pullout.  While in some cases the bike lane was pulled back even further to accommodate a bus passenger waiting shelter between the bus pullout and the bike lane, in this and numerous other situations the shelter was built over the "bike lane".
Bike lane with parked car, highway 12, Jeju Island, South Korea As highway 12 comes into built up areas, the bike facility tends to be grade separated and combined with a sidewalk.  These sections often are also characterized by a lot of cross penetration, sharp curb lipps and undulation of the riding surface.  Parked cars are another frequent obstacle.
Bike lane, with parked, highway 12, Jeju Island, South Korea This picture highlights the large lip that is common at curb ramps, the numerous cross penetration of the facility, the undulation and the use of the non-motorized facility by motor-vehicles.  Because of the "friction" bicycle travel in these sections is very slow.  Or, the inclination is move to the more free-flowing and much better road surface, but cars seem to react with the attitude of "get off the road and on to the bike path!"  While in most of South Korea, drivers were very patient with bicyclist, Jeju Island tend to be one of the exception.
Car parked in bike lane, Jeju Island One of the nicest aspects of Jeju Island are the "shore roads".  In 2004, these were  discontinuous, which kept motor-vehicle traffic volumes down, the scenery uncluttered and the atmosphere tranquil.  But, the bike lane adjacent to the road is even more discontinuous, and where they exists they are often used for parking.
Narrow street of coastal village, Jeju Island  Jeju Island wind farm, Jejudo South Korea Village road, Jeju IslandCurrently, the "shore road" still has missing links and goes through the narrow streets of many seaside villages.  This "road diet" keeping the buses off much of the route and slows cars down so that they choose to take highway 12 instead.  Unfortunately, there is currently a project to connect many of the isolated sections of shore road by building big roads through and on the coastal side many of these villages, bisecting them or cutting them off from the shore.  Consequently they are destroy some of the islands reserves of tranquility and opportunities to promote strong high quality ecotourism.  We predict that both lost opportunities that will be deeply regretted in twenty years.
Abrupt end of bike lane on shore road, Jeju Island Here the bike lane on the shore road abruptly ends.  Presumably you are suppose to wait for a helicopter to take you to the next section or turn back.  If you turn back, you will find that there is a bike lane on only one side of the road.  In the off season traffic volumes are pretty low so it is not a problem to ride in the road.  Many people seem to feel like they should ride the wrong way in the narrow bike lane, which when they meet an on-coming cyclists and on coming traffic together, creates a potential very dangerous situation.
Car parked in bike lane, Jeju Island Another of the frequent cars parked in the bike lane.  This picture is clearer that there is only a bike lane on one side of the road.  This bike lane is very discontinuous as well.  There is a critical need for additional training in bicycle traffic engineering for the road engineers of the local jurisdiction.

Nationwide Bike Path Network

Ipobo (dam), Guemsa, Yeogu, Korea Koreans has long had an extensive networks of hiking trails throughout the forests and mountains of the country.  Ernest activity to developing nationwide bikeway network dates from about 2008-09.   As with most large bike network, this one has a variety of different characters. 

In Seoul, and several other communities, scattered bike facilities have previously have been periodically installed as part of local improvement initiatives.  The were notoriously discontinuous and sometimes built to very marginal and inconsistent design standards.  The trend taking on local bicycle infrastructure improvements seems to have accelerated in the first decade of the new millennium, without any regional coordination.

South Korea Four Rivers Bikeway NetworkEfforts to connect some of these isolated facilities started in 2008/9.  The biggest push is in conjunction with the Four Rivers Project.  The Four Rivers Project involves the Han River (Korea), Nakdong River, Geum River and Yeongsan River. The primary goal of the "restoration" project is to provide or improve water security, flood control and the ecosystem's vitality. The primary activities was building dams and levies. (If restoration conjures up images of a natural, free-flowing river this was the antithesis, but we digress.)

The Four Rivers Project was first announced as part of the “Green New Deal” policy launched in January 2009. Most of the work is suppose to be completed by 2012. Of the landscape-heavy projects; dam construction, river bottom shoveling and dredging, channelization of the river banks, it is debatable whether the initiative is more destructive or constructive for the environment, but the upland non-motorized trail facility opens up some beautiful opportunities for walkers, bladers and bicyclists.

Hangang bike trail, Seoul, Korea

Through Seoul, from Inchon on the west to Pallang Dam on the east, much of the 70 km Han River trail, on the south bank, was developed (or under development) prior to the Four Rivers Project.  Pallang Dam, Hangang, Seoul, KoreaFrom Pallang Dam the Nationwide Network calls for using a rail trail on the north bank of the river, but at least as of late 2011, bicycles were forbidden from using the Pallang Dam to cross the river to get from the south bank trail to the north bank rail trail (though cars could drive over the dam.)

Korea National Trail System, Han River Korea National Trail System, tunnel, Han River sectionThe Namhangang Rail Trail goes from Pallang Dam to Yangpyeong, mostly on an old railroad alignment.  Presumably to tell the story they have left some of the tracks in around an old station.  The engineers have also taken advantage of the old tunnels.

Korea National Trail System, Han RiverBeyond the initial section, the tracks have been salvaged and the path is a totally new facility.

At Yangpyeong there is no obvious route on the north bank, but there are bridges that cross the river.  On the south bank it is 16km (10 miles) as the crow flies until there is more evidence of shoreline trail facilities. [2011]

Riverside bike trail, Yeoju, South Korea bicycle bridge, Yeoju, South KoreaA south bank trail shows up again around Guemsa but is discontinuous toward Yeoju.  In Yeoju the trail is completed along the river through town.  At the south end of Yeoju the riverside trail ends and there is a pig tail bridge connecting the trail with a bridge to get users to the north bank, but (as of late 2011) there were not obvious non-motorized facilities heading on (south or east) from there.
Bicycle crossing From Yeoju, there only seem to be on-road routes until you go from Gyeongii-do to Gangwon-do, over the old Seomgang bridge (Island River, a tributary of the Namhan River) and a sign directs bicyclists not to proceed any further on the main road and directs them on to cross the road to an access road that drops down under the bridge and to the river bank and onto 5 km (3 miles) of riverside trail to Buron.  If you are traveling northbound, towards Seoul, you can connect with this by head to the bridge crossing the Namhan at Buron and riding up the trail on the east bank.

Continuing south from Buron, to the west side of the Jojeonji Dam (across the Namhan River, north of Chungju,) currently the key is search out the coming and going of road 599.  There are no sign of any bike specific facilities in the works. [2011]

From just south of the Jojeonji Dam, most of the way to the turn-off for the Jangang pagoda, a viaduct-type trail has been build above the river / lake shore.  This is a great improvement because it give bicyclists an option from a narrow, winding road, with heavy traffic.

There is a local network of trails around Jangang pagoda, but these all seem to be for local access.  Additional connection would be required to tie these into the national network.

Chungju by-pass bridge over Namhan RiverThe side road past the pagoda is wide and low traffic volume, but 1 km south of the pagoda the only route is back on the main secondary road.  Traffic on this might be diminish when a Chungju by-pass bridge and highway is completed.

For the last leg into Chungju, the bicycle-friendly route from the west, is currently an unsigned, almost zero traffic, route on some farm roads.

South of Chungju any sign of a nationwide bikeway network disappears again for a while.  At this point you leave the Namhan River system and the route is being developed as the "Saejae Eco Bike Path".  The first evidence we found [2011] of the Saejae section was around Suhoe-ri, where a non-motorized side path is cantilevered off the highway on the Westside of the road.  Using this, some farm roads and old roads your can reduce the distance spent bicycling on the highway and reach Suambo fairly expeditiously and enjoyably.  If you are traveling northbound, towards Seoul, it would be hard to pick-up this alternative route.
After Suambo, again, there is no obvious accommodation for bicyclist for the next 16 km (ten mile).  The preferred route for bicycling is the old Hwy 3. It generally has very light traffic volumes so the lack of any development of the national network is not much of an issue.  At Yeonpung the "bike route" passes under the new Hwy 3 and heads up towards Ihwalyeong Pass as a real thing.  In 2011 bike lanes and several view points were added on both sides of the road up to the pass.  On the corners and sharp curves the bike lanes are identified with red asphalt.

Descending the east side of the pass is a breeze, but at the bottom, if you aren't diligent, before you know it, you will fly on to the new Hwy 3, without any easy escape.  The solution, though it is not signed, is to turn left and pass under Hwy 3 just before the stealth on-ramp.  Hopefully by the time the National Network is fully built out better signage will appear.

Nakdong River bike trail, Mungyeong, Korea

From Mungyeongsaejae to Mungyeong (over 30 km, 18 miles) there are a variety of back roads, farm roads, village roads, paved trails and virtually abandoned highways that can be strung together for an esthetically enjoyable bike ride.  Unfortunately, at the present [2011] it is not signed, and best route is often close at hand but rarely obvious or intuitive.

From Mungyeong the national route follows the Nakdong River.  There is a trail along the river in Mungyeong but in recent years our destinations in this region have not taken us south along the river so except for random glimpse of paths running along the river as we crossed it at various points, we have no sequential information on the national networks development in this area. 

If you travel along the Nakdong River south of Mungyeong we would love to hear about what you find in the way of bicycle facilities, especially those that might be part of the national network.

coffee machine with bicycle graphic Anecdotally, the amount of coffee drunken by bicyclists makes the coffee machine part of the bicycle infrastructure.  Coffee machines are (or were) almost ubiquitous and seemed to be synonymous with daily life, as well as bicycle touring.  They can (or could) be foundcoffee machine with bicycle graphic on almost every block in a city, inside business, at any kind of roadside attraction and standing alone in a gravel parking lot -- as long as there was electric service that could be dropped in.  The machine on the left is inside a bank and features a bicycle graphic.  The machine on the right, located next to the parking lot at the visitors center for a dam projects, features a bicycle for three -- a nice family outing.  I saw three people on a bike, but it was a regular one-seat bike.

Into the twenty-first century the iconic coffee machine is starting to fade.  In the cities there are now countless chains of coffee shops and in the small towns the mini-mart will sell you a single-serving of instant coffee and has an instant-hot water tap.

IBF's Bibliography: Korea
Eurasia & Pacific Digest
Korea Bicycle Tours


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