Two weekend pedestrian zones for downtown Seoul
Streets in Sejongno and Jongno in downtown Seoul may become pedestrian zones on weekends.
Seoul City said on Friday that it is considering banning vehicles from accessing the streets there on Saturdays and Sundays as part of efforts to provide more pleasant walking areas for tourists and nearby residents.
Mayor Park Won-soon spoke about the idea during his visit to Curitiba, a Brazilian city recognized for ecological sustainability.
“The area under consideration in Sejongno is the block between Gwanghwamun and the Sejongno intersection, either side of the Gwanghwamun Square. We haven’t designated any area in Jongno yet because the street is so long,” a city official said.
The city currently has 24 pedestrian districts, including Insa-dong and Myeong-dong. “But we now plan to have a new urban culture belt with parks and commercial areas, as done in Curitiba,” the official said.
The city government will detail its plan after gathering public opinion on the idea.
Regarding possible traffic congestion from changes in the busy downtown areas, the official said the city will study the average speed of cars and volume of traffic on streets and consider detours for buses before finalizing the scheme. The city will also discuss aspects of the plan with police.
“In Sejongno, even now the street is often blocked when there are public events on Gwanghwamun Square, a key destination for many tourists. Many civic groups are positive about setting up pedestrian zones there,” she said.
In addition, Sinchon and Munjeong in Seoul may be accessible only by public transportation. Limiting access to districts in this way would be a first for Seoul, while Daegu already has such a policy.
The two districts are considered as sites for change because many visitors go there but walking and the traffic environment in the areas remain poor. If changed as proposed, people will only be able to get around there by walking, cycling, taking the bus or riding the subway. Anyone attempting to drive in the designated zones will face fines.
“We’ll discuss this with the merchants there. Some have already given their consent,” another official said.
As well as improving safety for pedestrians and increasing the use of public transportation, it will also help to reduce air pollution, he said.
The city plans to come up with a master plan regarding the projects by the end of the year. Before then, it will adopt a charter for pedestrian rights in September.
“The charter will stipulate that Seoul City will take pedestrians into consideration first when it builds or repairs roads or traffic-related facilities in the future,” the official said, adding that a related ordinance will also be set up.
Mayor Park sought the advice on the project from Luciano Ducci, the mayor of Curitiba, dubbed the greenest city in Latin America. The city has been promoted as a “human-centered” city for sustainable development since the 1970s for providing pedestrian areas, establishing green zones and investing in public transportation.