Koreans were more familiar with bicycles during the 1960's and 1970s. We couldn't live without bicycles at that time. People used to ride bicycles everywhere. They also usually went to school or work by bicycles. In the latter half of the 1970s, there was great economic growth. The national income per capita increased drastically. Due to this increase in affluence, the number of cars on the road increased dramatically. In turn, the number of bicycles on the road decreased almost as quickly.
In 1995, Korea legislated the Bicycle Use Revitalization Act. This legislation was concerned with the establishment, maintenance and management of bicycle facilities such as bicycle paths, bicycle parking zones, and so on. These laws were supposed to contribute and promote bicycle use, as well as encourage the safety and convenience of bicycle riders.
Before investigating the present condition of Daegu's bicycle paths, we should learn about the different types of bicycle paths. There are four categories of bicycle paths. First, there are bicycle paths on the road way. These are only to be used by bicycles. All other vehicles and pedestrians aren't supposed to use them. These should be effective bicycle paths for bicycles only. In Daegu, none of the bicycle paths are zoned like this. There are paths for both bicycle riders and pedestrians. However, these sidewalk paths are usually used by pedestrians for the most part. This situation is easy to observe. There are also sidewalks that are divided between the walking side and the bicycle side. It is separated by using different materials on the road surface or by a boundary line.
There are about total 523.94 km of bicycle paths in Daegu. About 60 percent of the bicycle paths are in Suseong-gu, Buk-gu and Dalseo-gu. This allocation shows bias to specific areas. In Daegu, 73 percent of the bicycle paths, 382.4 km, are dual purpose for both bicycle riders and walkers. There are about 105.4 km of paths that are physically divided between pedestrian and bicycle paths. As I wrote before, there are no paths exclusively for bicycles.
Since 1996, Daegu City Hall has invested about 1.05 billion won on bicycle paths. After the law was legislated in 1995, Daegu City Hall has invested as little as 50 million won and as much as 1 billion won every year. However, 99 percent of the city's bicycle paths are not in use. YNO looked into the bicycle paths around Sawol, Sinmae and Yeonho station.
One of the major problems with Daegu bicycle paths is illegal parking and obstacles on the paths. In actuality, around Yeonho, the bicycle paths are well established. However, many cars are parked illegally on the paths, many other people illegally place objects that impede bicycles from effectively using the paths. These conditions cause many difficulties in riding on the bicycle paths. It should be natural that bicycles are able to pass on the bicycle paths. Even so, it is not natural around Yeonho station. People are forced to ride bicycles dangerously in an attempt to avoid pedestrians and cars. In response to this situation Daegu City Hall claims to be concerned, but they have done very little to actually resolve the problem. YNO expected to receive some specific answers. However, they were only able to state that "we know that it is a big problem, but there are too many cars that park illegally and too many people who create illegal obstacles." They went on to say, "we make a great deal of effort, but there are limitations to what we can do." In addition YNO thinks that to make stonger laws concerning illegal parking and illegal obstructions is necessary, but changing the consciousness of citizens is also important.
There are simply too many obstacles on the paths such as merchants, stall keepers, trees lining the streets, and so on. Anyone can see the numerous obstacles on the paths around Sinmae. It seems like an impossible task to ride a bicycle on the paths around Sinmae. Obstructions on the bicycle side of divided sidewalks causes the bicycles to ride on the pedestrian side. The overall effect is confusion and potentially dangerous situations. YNO interviewed citizens who were riding on the sidewalk dangerously. One citizen who always rides a bicycle said, "I like the convenience of riding a bicycle. I also like the economic aspects of bicycles, but whenever I ride my bicycle, I always feel afraid. It seems likely that an accident will happen. I always have to ride my bicycle between people." She complained about many situations. Another citizen who rides a bicycle to go to work said "I can't ride my bicycle on the paths, I also can't my bicycle on the roadway. When I try to ride the bicycle on the paths, I can't ride fast, and when I try to ride the bicycle on the roadways, it is very dangerous because of the cars, and people look at me like I am doing something wrong." Stall keepers don't care about bicycle paths. Whether there are bicycle paths or not, they sell their goods on the paths. Some stall keepers don't even know there are bicycle paths there at all. Bicycle riders say that they want to remove the stall keepers. If it is difficult the paths have to be established aside the car road. YNO tried to interview the stall keepers. However, they were very offensive and didn't want to be interviewed.
Sometimes there are trees lining the streets or sinkholes on the paths. There are also subway ventilation openings on the paths. Trees lining the street and sinkholes make the paths uneven. Cracks are created as a result. It is strange that both the trees on the paths and the sinkholes, are made by Daegu City Hall's urban planning. The Environmental Policy Division which planted the trees lining the street and The Road Division, which plans bicycle paths are both located in Daegu City Hall. However, they created a conflict for seemingly no reason. They apparently were not able to communicate with each other and cooperate enough to resolve the issue.
In the Road Traffic Act, if there are bicycle paths, bicycle riders have to use the paths. However, in this case, they can't comply with the law because of the obstacles that impede their progress. It is inevitable that they violate the law.
Another problem is that the bicycle paths are not clearly marked. On some of the bicycle paths it is hard to find anything to indicate there is a bicycle path. They are usually indicated by paint. However, the more older the paint gets the more difficult it is to see, and the city should do more to keep the paint fresh. They need to continuously repair it. On some bicycle paths, the marks are made with blocks. However, after construction, the city workers who surface the roads did not put them in good order, so they are difficult to see.
In order to solve the problem, Daegu needs a specific division dedicated to bicycle paths. Daegu needs a better organized overall plan. However there is only one official working on bicycle paths. This is in contrast to Changwon city. There are 10 officials working on bicycle paths. Therefore, Changwon city is famous for their well made bicycle paths. If Daegu can't manage to take charge of the situation, they have to consider another solution. For example, employing a private company to manage the bicycle paths is a good idea. It is also a problem that there is no one to advise Daegu City Hall. Of course, there are small organizations like Daegu Green Consumer Network. However, their activities focusing on the problem are far from sufficient. Daegu needs more powerful organizations to pressure Daegu City Hall, or Daegu Green Consumer Network has to find a stronger voice.
YNO reported on YU being selected as a Bicycle Exemplary University in the Cover Story of the 299th edition. Since then YU has announced a specific plan for bicycle paths on campus. YNO was worried YU would make some of the same errors as Daegu city. However, YU planed well and there will be no problems with the bicycle roads that will be established at YU. YU plans to create separate pedestrian and bicycle paths.
In other cities, bicycle roads are well made. As I said before, Changwon city is an exemplary city for bicycle use. In the city, there is a bicycle culture center. It is also called the "Bicycle School". People can get information about bicycle education. They also can receive high quality bicycle education. Another city that is doing a good job with their bicycle policies is Daejeon. Daejeon put the "Road Diet" into action. The "Road Diet" removes the lane road nearby the pedestrian walkways. By using this lane, they made bicycle paths for bicycle use only.
In Munster, Germany there are very high quality bicycle roads. By encouraging bicycle transportation the city of Munster makes their citizens think about bicycle riders first and than the bus and the subway. Fahrrad Autobahn, a bicycle express highway, makes riding bicycles more comfortable for their citizens more. Another country is David City in California. The government in David abolished school buses. They encourage the students to go to school by bicycles.
Some events held by Daegu City Hall are the Daegu Bicycle Rally, Public announcement of 1070 excellent stories about bicycle use, and the 1st Daegu Bicycle Licence for Children. However YNO finds it ironic that these events will be held here. They are in sharp contrast to the actual condition of Daegu's bicycle paths. It seems ridiculous to hold a bicycle licence contest for children when there aren't any decent bicycle paths for them to ride on. Daegu City Hall has to investigate what happens on the bicycle paths in Daegu. They need to set reasonable and practical policies about bicycle paths before they schedule publicity activities. YNO hopes the 1 billion won budget will not be wasted in the future.