Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guide to Seoul Street Biking

Some of these surely apply to urban biking in general, but here it is - my guide to Seoul street biking:

1) Don't trust anybody, especially taxis and buses. Don't trust vehicles to stop at red lights, go the correct way on one way streets, not cut you off, or anything else. This is the golden rule.

2) Pedestrians are idiots. If you ring your bell, most people will turn around and dumbly stare at you instead of getting out of the way. Still, use the bell often, and well in advance to give people time to get over their stupefaction. I now ring my bell almost constantly out of habit. Makes for nice ad-hoc music too.

3) Run red lights and break all traffic laws if it means getting away from the bulk of traffic. Don't be dumb about it, but it is actually safer to stay away from other vehicles, so do this as much as possible.

4) Watch out for doors. This is crucial. Look inside cars to see if there are passengers about to hop out, and always try to leave space between yourself and stopped (or slow moving!) cars. I've never been doored but I've almost been doored, and that is not an adventure I'd like to have.

5) It's often safer in the road than on the sidewalk. Cars plow into sidewalks from side streets. Trucks park in sidewalks, often completely blocking them. Motorbikes speed on sidewalks. Sometimes the sidewalks suddenly become dead ends for bikes because there are only pedestrian overpasses at intersections and no crosswalks. Use your best judgment.

Seoul can be a great city for biking for those with balls of steel! Stay safe!


disfunk said...

Most of these are general rules anywhere, especially staying on the street. In the Northwest we dont have to worry "too" much about cars breaking all the traffics laws, such as going down one ways the wrong direction. (though, Im sure it happens) I bet that adds a whole new element of excitement to it. ;)

charlotte park said...

I bike in Seoul and I agree completely with everything this article said. The road is best, but god dammit do you need guts to swoosh alongside big buses and maniac taxis.

calliejane said...

Seth, I followed a link to your site from DokdoIsOurs(Muthapu*ka)and I'm so pleased that I did. Yours is oh so amusing too, and just the ticket for one such as myself who is, in fact, being paid to surf the netwebs. :)

I had been tempted to buy a bike lately, of the push- variety, after 6 years of missing my favrit form of transport, to ride around to the shops and back in Itaewon (where I live) and maybe even down to the river, and such, but now you've totally added all the weight needed to my boyfriend's horrified attempts to persuade me not to. Bugger.

Ryan Hauser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan H said...

im a week new to Seoul (moved here from Vancouver) and i bought a 7-speed from Samchuly bike shop (pretty nice bikes). ive already done a couple of 20km trecks around the city (like from Dongjak-gu to Hongdae then Itaewon and back) and it has been tons of fun and tons of HOLY SHIT moments. All of these things you listed here are pretty damn well spot on. Id say i definitely have balls of steel when it comes to riding but today riding back from Gangnam i took the wrong ramp and ended up on the main highway beside the Han River at night (thankfully i had my rear lights but who knows really if that did any difference). i was seriously about to shit my pants at how scary it was and i was so high up i had to just keep going with it until i came along a steep enbankment that led to the bike path along the river (first time i saw that haha) and carried my bike down to safety. i learned a lesson, as good as iphone GPS is i really need to do my homework on the maps before getting into long distances like that, because it seems like in Seoul just because you take a route one way you cant expect to be able to take the same route in the opposite direction.