|Cyclists try out a new bicycle road along the Geum River on Sept. 28 in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province. (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)|
The 1,592-kilometer path will help establish nationwide bicycle routes
The nearly 10 million Koreans who own at least one bicycle will be able to travel almost anywhere in the nation on two wheels once the Korean government links bicycle paths along the four major rivers, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said.
The first 19-kilometer bicycle path called “Gyeongin Ara Baetgil” along the Han River is scheduled to open in mid-October, followed by the opening of bicycle roads along three other rivers ― Geum River, Nakdong River and Yeongsan River ― by the end of this year.
The Gyeongin Ara Baetgil starts at the southern part of Hangju Bridge and continues west to Gimpo Passenger Terminal, Duri Ecology Park, Ara Fall and Incheon Terminal.
The new path is just the one of many connected bicycle paths set to open along the four major rivers. The Namhan River Bicycle Road, running from upstream Namhan River to Paldang Bridge, is 135 kilometers long. And when the roads along the rivers are completed, the existing 70 kilometer road in Seoul will link up to the Gyeongin Ara Baetgil as well as the Namhan River Bicycle Road, creating a 224 kilometer path that will stretch from Chunju Dam on the Namhan River up to Paldang Bridge to Seoul and finally to Incheon Terminal.
The Ministry of Public Administration and Security also plans to create a new 100 kilometer bicycle road that links the Namhan River and the Nakdong River.
Once that path is completed, the full 600 kilometer cycle path will run across the nation from Incheon to Busan.
The total length of the cycle paths running along all the four rivers will be 1,592 kilometers. The existing paths run for about 405 kilometers, leaving 1,187 kilometers of new cycle paths.
But, the new roads are only one-tenth of the total bicycle roads in Korea.
The government announced the plan for the four-rivers cycle paths in June 2009, and construction began in the second half of 2009.
Old railroad now for cyclists
Korean cyclists travelling the Han River from Seoul to the east had to stop at Paldang Bridge because the bicycle path ended there. If they wanted to keep going, they had to ride on a dangerous and narrow road used by motor vehicles.
With the new Namhan River Bicycle Road, which opened on Saturday, however, bicyclers can keep riding east to Yangpyeong in Gyeonggi Province.
The old Jungang Railroad section, running from Paldang Station to Yangpyeong, has long been famous for its panoramic scenery of the river. Small railway stations unloaded passengers to many scenic spots that boasted popular riverside cafes.
After the Jungang Railroad closed down in November 2008, the abandoned railroad track became a headache.
Now, with the new bicycle road that runs along the railroad, the area will be revived as a beautiful place to gaze over the silent river on two wheels or on foot.
The Namhan River Bicycle Road begins at Paldang Bridge. Once you come out of the Bongan Tunnel, the famous view of the Paldang Dam will greet you. Dasan Road, running from Paldang Dam to Dasan Jeong Yak-yong’s historical site and to Ungilsan Station, is a quiet, almost empty road.
Saejae road for mountain bikes
Saejae is a mountain pass that stretches from Goesan in North Chungcheong Province to Mungyeong in North Gyeongsang Province. Also called “Joryeong,” meaning “even birds find it hard to fly over,” the 1,017 meter high pass was the main crossing for Confucian students traveling to take state exams in Seoul.
On the new Saejae Bicycle Road in Saejae, you can ride 100 kilometers from Chungju near the Han River to Sangju near the Nakdong River.
The bicycle road passes by Suanbo Hot Spring where you can take a bath and rest.
Further down the Suanbo Hot Spring, you will encounter the beautiful, 20 meter Suok Fall.
The Ihwaryeong Pass, located between the 1,017 meter high Mount Joryeong and 783 meter Galmi Peak, will be a challenging section for mountain bikers.
You can take a dip in Mungyeong Hot Spring, if you missed the Suanbo Hot Spring.
By Kim Yoon-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)