To address this situation, the SMG implemented various policies for creating a pleasant and safe walking environment in order to develop Seoul as a pedestrian-friendly city. This policy began in earnest with the “Creation of pedestrian-friendly walkways” project in 1998. The Seoul plaza was built in front of Seoul City Hall in 2004, and the Cheonggyecheon stream restoration project was implemented in 2005 to remove large roads and create spaces for walkways instead.
During the period from 2007 to 2011, the SMG implemented the “Design Seoul Street” and “Street Renaissance” projects to unify the designs of public facilities on the streets and improve the pavements of the walkways. In April 2012, the SMG announced the “Ten Commandments for Pavements in Seoul” to reduce inconveniences to pedestrians. In accordance with this slogan, various projects were implemented, including the “sidewalk construction under real names project,” which consisted in inscribing the contractor’s name on the sidewalks, the “One-strike Out policy,” which aimed to restrict poor construction companies from participating in biddings, and the “securing temporary pedestrian walkways” initiative which aimed to improve pedestrian environments around construction sites.
In the eyes of Seoul’s citizens, however, pedestrian environments did not seem greatly improved, despite the fact that the SMG had consistently implemented its pedestrian-friendly policies. As of 2013, 78% of all the roads in downtown Seoul were community roads for both pedestrians and vehicles whose width is less than 12 meters, but pedestrians experienced considerable inconvenience in using them due to the sheer number of illegally parked vehicles. The width of the walkways were over the minimum 2 meters, mandated by the related regulations, but the sidewalks actually seemed very narrow because of bollards, ventilation openings, roadside trees, and such.
Of the total number of road casualties, pedestrians accounted for 57.0% (as of 2011), highlighting the safety problems that pedestrians were facing. In a survey of the most unstable, inconvenient and unpleasant facilities conducted by the SMG in 2011, walkways and roadways were ranked second and third, accounting for 17.7% and 10.3% of the responses respectively. This shows the extent to which pedestrians believed their environment was poor.
In 2013, the SMG presented the “Seoul Vision for the Pedestrian-friendly City” and prepared ways for Seoul to improve the pedestrian environment. The contents of ten projects—such as pedestrian-only streets, pedestrian-friendly areas, introduction and expansion of pedestrian priority roads, vehicle speed limits, improvements to the traffic signal system for pedestrians, creation of downtown pedestrian roads and the Seoul walkathon—were all important aspects of this vision.
Main Pedestrian Policies of the SMG by Period
The Seoul design project, executed from 2007, was not only intended to improve the pedestrian environment, but also to add aesthetic elements to the pedestrian passages so as to give pedestrians a feeling of satisfaction when passing via the walkways. In 2010, the SMG established a department for pedestrians and bikes under the Seoul City Traffic Headquarters, which has devoted itself exclusively to implementing policies related to pedestrians and bikes. The SMG has also made continuous efforts to improve the pedestrian environment by implementing such initiatives as the designation of pedestrian priority areas and the Seoul Street Renaissance project, as well as announcing the “Seoul Vision for the Pedestrian-friendly City.” More specifically, the Seoul Vision for a Pedestrian-friendly City was noteworthy because it comprised ten action plans conceived to improve the entire pedestrian environment by expanding pedestrian-only streets and pedestrian-friendly streets, installing additional crosswalks in downtown areas, and introducing pedestrian priority streets in residential areas. Its main pedestrian-related policies are as follows:
- Early 1990s: Movement for pedestrian rights related to safety issues in school zone walkways and alleys in residential areas
- 1996: Legislation of the Act on the Establishing of Child Protection Zones
- 1997: Legislation of ordinance on pedestrians in Seoul; establishment of car-free streets (Insa-dong, Myeongdong-gil, Gwancheoldong-gil)
- 1998: Implementation of pedestrian-friendly walkway project; establishment of 1st basic plan for Seoul’s pedestrian environment
- 1999: Installation of a crosswalk on the north-south side of Sejongno intersection; implementation of the Green Way Project
- 2000: Installation of a crosswalk in front of the Seoul Arts Center
- 2004: Creation of Seoul Plaza
- 2005: Establishment of 2nd basic plan for Seoul’s pedestrian environment
- 2007: Implementation of the Design Seoul Street Creation project
- 2008: Implementation of a pilot project for pedestrian priority areas and the Seoul Street Renaissance project
- 2009: Establishment of a plan to improve pedestrian traffic
- 2010: Establishment of a new department for pedestrians and bicyclists within the Seoul City Traffic Headquarters
- 2012: Legislation of an act intended to secure and protect pedestrian rights and improve pedestrian’s convenience
- 2013: Announcement of the Seoul Vision for a Pedestrian-friendly City
<Figure 1> Main Pedestrian Policies by Period
|Green Traffic Plans||Pedestrian-friendly Street||Cheonggyecheon and Bus-only Lane||Street Renaissance||Pedestrian-friendly City|
|Installation of a department responsible for pedestrians for the first time.||Designation of streets including Jeongdong-gil. Expansion to the landscape and tourism levels.||Creation of Seoul Plans. Restoration of Cheonggyecheon Stream after demolishing the Cheonggye Expressway.||Establishment of a design concept. Installation of media board on Gangnam Street.||Remodeling of the overpass at Seoul Station and the Se-un Arcade. Improvement of pedestrian environment.|
Legislation of Ordinance on Pedestrians
According to the new ordinance, “the SMG shall establish a “Basic Plan for the Pedestrian Environment” every five years.” The ordinance also stipulated that “the basic plan shall clearly present the kinds, contents, necessary budgets and subjects of the pedestrian environment improvement projects that the SMG has to implement over the next five years.” In addition, project-related job allocation, promotional organizations, the preparation of regulations and standards, and method of facilitating civil participation were all to be included in the basic plan. Thus, the first basic plan for the pedestrian environment was established in 1998.
Creation of Car-free Streets.
<Figure 2> Examples of Car-free Streets in Seoul
Creation of Seoul Plaza
The SMG began discussions about converting the area in front of City Hall into a plaza in the city center. The SMG conducted a survey of public opinion, in which 79% of the respondents agreed with the plan, thus showing a positive reaction and strong public support.
The SMG created the Seoul Plaza based on the following four basic directions: recovery of historic and symbolic value, reorganization of the traffic system, satisfaction of pedestrians’ needs, and creation of cultural spaces. Completed on May 1, 2004, Seoul Plaza (13,207m2) has since been used for diverse events and gatherings. Meanwhile, most of the responses against the construction of the Seoul Plaza were concerned with serious traffic congestion (i.e. 82% of the 15% of respondents who were opposed to the new plaza). However, according to most experts’ evaluations, traffic flow has been greatly improved by the creation of the Seoul Plaza.
<Figure 3> Before and After the Creation of Seoul Plaza
Removal of Elevated Roads and Pedestrian Overpasses
Beginning with the Tteokjeon overpass in 2002, the SMG torn down around twenty elevated roads installed on main streets in the ensuing ten-year period. The representative overpass demolition project entailed the demolition of the Cheonggye overpass crossing Seoul from east to west in 2003, which was effective in improving the urban landscape and environment. In addition, the resulting traffic flow was not as bad as originally concerned. According to some domestic studies on the demolition of overpasses, it has had a number of positive economic effects, such as improving the traffic flow, increasing revenues in neighboring commercial areas, raising the value of housing, and improving the surrounding landscape, thus supporting the appropriateness of the demolition project.
Many citizens and experts pointed out that the reckless installation of pedestrian overpasses as part of pedestrian environment improvement projects had hindered the mobility of disabled or vulnerable pedestrians (such as children, the elderly, the disabled and stroller carriers) and increased traffic accident rates because of jaywalking. The SMG accepted these opinions, and started to tear down the pedestrian overpasses and install new pedestrian crossings instead. The pedestrian overpass demolition project was not implemented in a comprehensive form, but allowed the autonomous districts to demolish pedestrian overpasses on a case-by-case basis according to the wishes of the public, after a site investigation and meetings with related people. Thus, the number of pedestrian overpasses in Seoul was reduced from 206 in 2007 to 165 in 2013, i.e. an average of six per year over the seven-year period.
Current Problems and Issues with Seoul’s Pedestrian Environment
Ten Main Projects of the “Seoul Vision for the Pedestrian-friendly City”
- Expansion of Designated Pedestrian-only Streets
<Figure 4> Test Operation of Pedestrian-only Street in Sejongno
s. Initial Implementation Date: Sep. 23 (SUN), 2012 (occasional operation)
s. Section: Gwanghwamun three-way intersection to Sejongno intersection
s. Events: Recycled goods sharing markets, farmers’ markets, etc.
s. Project Results
- Creation of Five Pedestrian-friendly Areas by 2014
- Introduction of the Pedestrian-first Roads in Living Areas
- Operation of Children-only Streets
- Lowering of Speed Limit on Back Roads of Living Areas
- Overall Improvement of the Pedestrian Environment for the Mobility Handicapped
- Extension of Green Signal Time of Traffic Lights Installed at Pedestrian Crossings
- Installation of Crosswalks at All Downtown Intersections
- Spread of Walking Culture via the “Seoul Walkathon” as a Pedestrian Festival and Creation of Downtown Pedestrian Roads Connecting with Tourist Attractions
Status of Pedestrian Facilities in Seoul and AchievementsIn order to improve the pedestrian environment, the SMG has installed a variety of walkways, crosswalks, pedestrian-only streets and other facilities on a continuous basis. The combined length of the walkways in Seoul steadily increased from 2,375km in 2002 to 2,789km in 2011. (Refer to <Figure 5>).
<Figure 5> Change of Total Length of Walkways and Their Areas
<Figure 6> Change in No. of Crosswalks in Seoul
<Table 1> Status of Designated Child Protection Areas and Improvement Projects of Seoul (As of 2012)
|No. of Target
<Table 2> Status of Designated Senior Protection Areas and Improvement Projects of Seoul (As of 2012)
|Classification||Sum||Housing Welfare||Medical Welfare||Leisure Welfare||City Parks||Lifetime Sports Facilities|
|No. of Target Facilities||6,362||30||432||3,545||1,966||389|
|No. of Designated
Increase of Pedestrian Traffic in Seoul
<Table 3> Change of Seoul’s Floating Population in 2009 and 2012
|Unit : person/14hr|
|Classification||Mon.||Tue.||Wed.||Fri.||Sat.||Weekday Average||Weekly Average|
Limits and Implication
However, the pleasant and safe pedestrian-friendly city that Seoul is striving to create cannot be realized simply with projects to improve the pedestrian environment. In spite of the SMGs concerted efforts, it is true that getting about the city by car is relatively easier than by public transport or on foot in the current traffic environment in Seoul. Therefore, it is necessary to improve the city’s ongoing pedestrian-related policies and current public transportation services and to implement parking and traffic demand management policies in parallel in various fields in order to create a better pedestrian-friendly city.
The SMGs pedestrian policies have been promoted individually as well as uniformly with the focus on improving pedestrian walkways rather than concentrating on the meaning of urban space. The policies for creating a pedestrian-friendly city should focus on the pedestrian walkways as a part of urban space and bring the space to life. Also, it is necessary to manage the land use and landscape surrounding the streets and create pedestrian spaces that reflect local characteristics beyond the uniform improvement of pedestrian walkways. If the SMG offered its citizens opportunities to participate directly or indirectly in the planning and implementation stages of such projects, it would be beneficial to the creation of pedestrian spaces that correctly reflect local features.
- Jong-hyeok Kim, Jin-tae Kim, 2011, “Before and After the Demolition of Elevated Roads in Seoul”, Road Traffic No. 125
- Press Release of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2012, “Seoul Vision for Pedestrian-friendly City: Not Vehicles but Pedestrians come first”
- The Seoul Institute, 2012, “Study on the Improvement and Expansion of Car-free Streets of Seoul – Focusing on the Downtown Area (Improvement of Car-free Policy in Seoul)
- Chang-deock Kang, 2013, “Measurement of Walking Convenience Index of Seoul and Policy Tasks”, Seoul Urban Research, Vol. 14, No. 4
- Hye-jung Han, Seong-hee Jang, Seung-in Kim, 2013, “Study on Walking Activation Plan Using the Service Design Methodology”, Study on Digital Design Science
- The Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2013, “Survey on the Seoul Floating Population in 2012”
- The Seoul Institute, 2013, “Statistics on Seoul Traffic”
- Jong-hyeok Kim, Jin-tae Kim, Heung-gil Kim, Bok-min Shin, 2013, “Study on the Effective Benefits of Landscape Improvement according to the Demolition of Elevated Roads”, Seoul Urban Research, Vol. 14, No. 4