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New Paradigm of Public Transportation in Seoul, Seoul Bike
Written by Moonyoung (Rosy) Bang | Published. 2019.12.14 08:30 | Count : 657

Amsterdam’s ‘WhiteBikes,’ Paris’s ‘Vélib,’ London’s ‘Boris,’ Copenhagen’s ‘Bycykler København,’ and Oslo’s ‘Oslo Bysykkel,’ these are some of the successful public bicycle sharing systems from major cities around the world. Public bike-sharing is a system where any citizen can rent a bicycle for a certain period of time after paying for it. The advantages of this program are reducing heavy traffic, preventing air pollution, promoting the city as an eco-friendly city, and attracting tourists. The idea of public bicycle sharing first started with Provo, a counterculture movement that took place in the Netherlands during the 1960s. Promoting a slogan that white bicycles would be the first free public transportation for the citizens, hippies of the Netherlands freely distributed the white bicycles in the streets of Amsterdam. Following this movement, Paris, Berlin, Budapest, and many other European cities started to set up public bicycle-sharing schemes of their own. Following this trend, the local government of Seoul also adopted a public bike-sharing system in 2015, naming it ‘Seoul Bike.’

Benchmarking Paris’s ‘Vélib,’ the mayor of Seoul Won-soon Park introduced Seoul Bike to enhance citizen’s health, reduce carbon dioxide emission, and solve commuting problems in Seoul. The Seoul Bike were specially manufactured by a local government- funded manufacturer with durable materials and ergonomic design. Bike stations for renting and returning bikes were built near bus stops, subway stations, housing complexes, and public facilities like schools, banks, or local parks. This made Seoul Bike easily accessible for commuting. Before going to a bike station, citizens can easily check the number of bicycles available at each bike station on the ‘bike station map’ in the official website.

[picture of the bike station map, photo courtesy to NAVER]

There are two ways to use this service, ‘daily pass’ and a ‘commuter pass’. Citizens can purchase the passes either by visiting ‘Seoul Bike’ website or by making an official application. ‘Daily pass’ is for people who plan to use the bike only for a day. The main consumers of the daily pass are citizens who are just out for a stroll or tourists who want to enjoy the city. Renting options are 1) 1,000 won for an hour and 2) 2,000 won for two hours. Additional 1,000 won will be charged every 30 minutes delay in returning the bike. ‘Commuter pass’ is for people who use the bike regularly. Main targets are those who have to commute to work or school on a daily basis. Commuter pass has two categories. A ‘regular commuter pass’ user can use the bike for an hour whenever he or she needs it, and a ‘premium commuter pass’ user can use it for two hours at any time. Renting options for regular commuters are 1) 3,000 won for a week, 2) 5,000 won for a month, 3) 15,000 won for three months, and 4) 30,000 won for a year. Renting options for premium commuter are 1) 4,000 won for a week, 2) 7,000 won for a month, 3) 20,000 won for three months, and 4) 40,000 won for a year. Seoul Bike accepts payment through various payment methods such as transportation card, credit card, or cell phone app. After using the bike, the user can simply return it to any bike station nearby.

[photo of the ‘Seoul Bike’ bike station, photo courtesy to myself]
[photo of the ‘Seoul Bike’ bike station, photo courtesy to myself]

The ‘Seoul Bike’ program has been a great success; 86% of ‘Seoul Bike’ users said the service was very satisfying. According to the Seoul local government, ‘Seoul Bike’ was used by 5,1929 citizens on average every day, and 50.6% was used during commuting hours. This proves that the policy reached its goal of reducing heavy traffic during commuting hours. As RM, a member of the well-known K-POP group BTS mentioned that he frequently uses Seoul Bike near Han River and local parks in Seoul, many BTS fans, including foreigners are visiting Seoul to try this service. Since 2015, 188 foreigners used ‘Seoul Bike’ every day on average. This shows that the policy also achieved its goal to stimulate the tourism industry in Seoul. Not only the foreigners, but also the Seoul citizens are using this bike-sharing system for outdoor activities as well, riding the bike at famous bike courses such as the Ttukseom Park bike course, Han River Park bike course, and Seoul Forest Park bike course. The Seoul Bike service is successfully promoting Seoul as an eco-friendly city.

As a ‘Seoul Bike’ user, I consider ‘Seoul Bike’ as perfect policy with high accessibility, good accessibility, and reasonable fee. Renting the ‘Seoul Bike’ myself, it only took about 5 minutes to rent and pay for the bicycle. The bicycle was in good working order and its adjustable saddle allowed both teenagers and elderlys to ride it comfortably. Riding it around Ttukseom Park, I frequently spot families and friends riding the Seoul Bike. Riding a bike is a great way to really feel and enjoy the urban landscape of skyscrapers and the natural landscape of local parks in Seoul.

[picture of myself riding the ‘Seoul Bike’ in Ttukseom Park, photo courtesy to myself]

After four years of running the ‘Seoul Bike’ program, the public and the government officials evaluated this policy as a perfect method for city promotion. The policy thoroughly benefitted Seoul citizens by helping solve the heavy traffic congestion and air pollution. The success of Seoul’s public bicycle-sharing scheme is also spawning sister programs in other cities. A case in point: the ‘Nubija’ program in the city of Changwon. Citizens from different cities in Korea are expecting their local city government to establish a bicycle-sharing system in their own city. The spread of various public bicycle-sharing systems in different cities will make Korea an eco-friendly country for both Koreans and tourists.




Moonyoung (Rosy) Bang
Sophomore (Grade 10)
Gangnam International School

Moonyoung (Rosy) Bang  student_reporter@dherald.com

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