Among cyclists, there is a common saying that no one owns the roads. Bicycles should be permitted on the roads as much as they are on bike paths, they argue.
However, if the Eunpyeong district government has its way, they will soon have to get off their bikes when using pedestrian crossings.
A warning sticker on the side of a pedestrian crossing in Yeokchon-dong, Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul, says “Get off your bike.”
The northwestern district in Seoul issued a press release on Monday saying the district’s neighborhoods started putting warning stickers on the crossings that say “walk your bike (when crossing them).”
The number of cyclists in cities has increased in the past decade, and so has the accident rate.
The Eunpyeong district‘s latest bike safety measure came amid the growing number of bike-related fatalities on the roads, which stood at 30 last year, up 25 percent from the previous year, according to Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s data.
Bicyclists also accounted for 15,000, or 6.76 percent of the country’s overall traffic accidents in 2016, up from 6.01 percent in 2015, 5.94 percent from 2014 and 5.35 percent from 2012, according to The Korea Transport Institute.
While many bicycle accidents occur near the pedestrian crossings, the law does not explicitly call on the cyclists to get off their bikes to cross them, says Yeokchon-dong district official Go Dok-hwan who implemented the sticker program.
“Motorists expect pedestrians, not cyclists who ride at a much faster speed. They should walk their bikes when using a pedestrian crossing. But the traffic law isn’t strictly followed by cyclists, especially among younger ones near schools who don’t realize how unsafe it is,” Go told The Korea Herald.
“The warning stickers will at least help them realize riding in the pedestrian crossing is a dangerous practice, and that it is also against the law to do so,” Go added.
Under the current Road Traffic Act that defines bicycles as “vehicles,” all bicyclists must dismount their bikes on the crosswalks unless on the bike-only lane.
A lack of designated bike paths to separate bicyclists from motorists or pedestrians is yet another factor for the increasing number of bike-related fatalities, experts say.
Only a few districts in Seoul, including Songpa District, offers cyclists sidewalks that can be shared -- and separated -- by riders and pedestrians, but riders share the space with motorists in most places as bike lanes are scarce.
Earlier this year, the Seoul Metropolitan Government vowed to build 84.4 kilometer of bike-only paths by 2020 as some lawmakers voiced concerns over the city’s limited number of bike-only lanes and weak pedestrian safety measures.
By Bak Se-hwan (firstname.lastname@example.org