Traffic marks a city; and mobility mark the citizens; which is not different in Seoul, where about ten million citizens have to find their way.
Car vs Man: 1-1
Genius, is my first impression when leaving the park, and ending up in a chaos of wide green and red lanes, which make part of a pedestrians’ and cyclists’ paradise. Under the layer of crisscrossing bridges for cars and trains, this other dimension of mobility rules around the entire Han river and thanks to the division in altitude, pedestrians and cyclists never come across motorised transportation.
Around the red and green lanes are open air gyms to work out, and chill out benches to relax. Covered by and separated from the highways, this zone is both safe and comfortable, like escaping from the city, and creating a unique pedestrian and cyclist world. They remind me on the cycling lanes in the Netherlands and in the Scandinavian countries [stories for later], including the huge amount of people cycling and walking here.
Later on, at a meters wide zebra crossing, I am waiting with patience and vigilance. In Japan traffic was extremely organised, however here the law of might applies. You better never cross the street as first or as last pedestrian, I read somewhere; after some days walking in the city, I have to confirm this rule. Even more, after having to grab a little kid by its collar to prevent him for entering the crowd of cars.
Traffic as a Picasso Painting
Bigger than cars, are the threatening busses, every few seconds it would be possible to end up under such a monster if not watching carefully. Actually I should sheer this amount of busses passing by, because they are the most organised aspect of the traffic chaos in Seoul – besides the subway of course. Yellow, green, blue, red, white, orange, depending on where a bus goes, every bus has a distinct colour, turning the traffic flow into a Picasso painting. [This system reminds me on the one in Curritiba, in Brazil, however that’s a story for later on.]
I continue walking, pass by a street market, cross over a bridge, and watch underneath me and above me another dimension of the city. Building in layers to optimize the use of space is fascinating, above and underneath the ground level, new dimensions are added to create new room, however there is none. Without noticing other people continue their route above or underneath you, following their own track. Moreover, the underground levels are very useful in times of extreme cold or heath, because of natural isolation. Further on, they safeguard pedestrians from the motorised traffic on the ground level. Protection against men and nature at the same time.
In Seoul I prefer the underground connections to avoid cross roads, in Tokyo on the other hand, I opted for the pedestrian bridges, which make the pedestrian feel like overruling the motorised traffic: freedom, safety, a view on the city, and a smile on my face.
Seoul has its bridges as well, as the one that runs over the little creek, which used to be a highway. Nevertheless, the mayor of Seoul decided to repurpose the zone to a pedestrian zone, and give the road from the cars back to the human beings. Willows spread their branches over the little water flow, benches allow the pedestrians a place to listen to the river, and watch the murals; creating an oasis in the middle of the city chaos. Despite the protest of local businesses, because of the reduced influx of customers.
Breathing a Last Time
I could give more examples of Seoul’s city design, about a city built out of layers, as Singapore [another story for later], and a constant changing city.
I could tell more about the traffic and travel conditions within the city, or out the city; but I’ll keep them for my more detailed newsletter, for who’s willing to dive deep … and rise high.
However, leaving Seoul was not that easy, as my next destination is China, and low visibility, due to fog or smog – what’s in a name – prevents me from getting in. The first, but for sure not the last way I’ll notice how *** the air quality of China is.