By Bae Ji-sook
Beginning in 2014, Seoul citizens will be able to enjoy a bicycle ride from business district of Taepyeong-ro to the shopping area of Dongdaemun, Mt. Namsan, and even to Banpo in the southern part of the city, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) said Wednesday.
The city has already announced a grand plan to install bike-only lanes on all 207 kilometers of major artery roads surrounding the city. The newly announced 88-kilometer circular bike lane will pass through many popular sites, making Seoul a real bike-friendly place, Mayor Oh Se-hoon said, adding the project will help bicycles replace automobiles at a dramatic rate.
Its economic and environmental benefits will be immense, the government said.
The new route consists mainly of lanes linking the central part of the city, areas surrounding the Han River, Jungrang Stream and several other streams in the city, and routes connecting to the 207 kilometer-outer city lanes.
``It will take a mere 40 minutes to reach Gyeongbok Place in central Seoul from Eunpyeong New Town in northwestern Seoul,'' a Seoul official said.
One automobile lane per road will be refurbished as a bike lane. The government is considering narrowing lanes to make up the space.
For example, boulevards in central Seoul will be changed into two lanes for bikes, four lanes for ordinary automobiles and two lanes in the middle for buses.
The Pyeongchang Tunnel, which is now under construction in northern Seoul, will have three-meter-wide bike lanes.
Between Soweol-gil of Mt. Namsan, Hanam-ro near Han River shore and Banpo-ro in southern Seoul, a ``bike elevator'' will be installed because of the steep slopes.
``The new lanes will spare people the need to drag their heavy bikes all the way up and will prevent possible accidents,'' Oh said.
``We need a paradigm shift in transportation to deal with the climate change and the traffic jams we are facing. The project will let all citizens enjoy nearly all areas of Seoul with environmentally friendly bicycles,'' he said.