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Make cycling safer

Mar 13,2009
A professor in his 50s who commuted to work by bike for more than 20 years was killed in an accident in Gwangju. He was biking in the street, close to the pedestrian road, when a bus abruptly changed lanes and crashed into him.

In Gwangju, most bicycle paths are in the middle of pedestrian roads. As it is inconvenient both for pedestrians and cyclists, bikers tend to take the road despite the danger.

An increasing number of people have become interested in cycling recently. There has been a great deal of discussion about its health and environmental benefits. It’s also a cheap form of transportation.

However, the infrastructure for bicycles is insufficient. As seen in Gwangju, there are not enough decent bicycle lanes, a prerequisite for safe cycling.

The government has unveiled a plan to build a vast network of bicycle paths as part of its so-called Green New Deal that will connect roads up and down the country.

The scheduled completion date is 2018 and the project will cost an estimated $819 million.

But a more pressing need is to construct bicycle lanes within cities for transportation.

If bicycle lanes are built so that people can commute to work or school, or go shopping safely, the percentage of people using bicycles for transportation, which stands at just 1.2 percent now, will surely surge.

It is good that local governments in cities like Seoul, Busan, Daejeon and Ulsan are presenting plans to build bicycle lanes, but the job cannot be left to local governments alone. The central government must provide help and encourage other local governments.

It is the central government’s responsibility to build larger roads for people who commute between Bundang and southern Seoul, or between Ilsan and northern Seoul.

To encourage more people to ride bicycles, we need more than just bicycle lanes. We need parking spaces, rental stations, repair stations and public shower booths.

Insurance programs for bicycle riders must be developed as well and drivers must learn to be careful about riders’ safety.

The schools must offer better safety education. In 2007, 22 percent of the 8,724 reported casualties in bicycle accidents were children.

It is a dangerous idea to start encouraging children to cycle to school when Korea still lacks the appropriate infrastructure and commitment to road safety needed to ensure that fewer youth get hurt on our roads.