Changes in Sidewalks of Seoul
Press Briefing on the “10 Commandments for Sidewalks”
Date December 15th, 2014 |Venue Briefing Room, Seoul City Hall
Early this morning, a financial industry advisory meeting was held. There was a great deal of criticism of Seoul’s competitiveness in the financial industry by the consultants working at international financial corporations. Another common point was that Seoul has become a better city for foreigners to live in and visit. I do not agree, however. I think we still have a long way to go.
Some might say that a mayor should not intervene in and discuss trivial matters, but I have a different opinion. I think structures like paving blocks, sidewalks, and roads are the foundation of a city. They are the basic infrastructure, the infrastructure of infrastructure. That is why I am standing here today. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has already announced its 10 Commandments on Sidewalks. They were announced in April 2012 in order to reform a 60-year-old custom. It has been two years and eight months since then, and paving blocks in Seoul are definitely changing. Do you not agree? I think various specific measures, such as the real-name system on sidewalk construction, pedestrian safety helpers, and sidewalk construction closing, are achieving positive results. We will continue to strive to establish quality sidewalk construction by training experts in sidewalk construction and enhancing the quality control system.
According to a survey on citizens’ satisfaction with sidewalk construction, the level of satisfaction has increased from 60% in 2013 to 78% in October 2014. Are the rights of pedestrians in Seoul, then, fully guaranteed? We decided to study the status of sidewalks in Seoul. There were countless sidewalk issues, and the management was dispersed. Seoul has 1.1 million different issues with sidewalks: remaining payphones in the age of smartphones, complex supporting structures, ventilating openings that block sidewalks, curbs that wheelchairs and baby carriages cannot climb, distribution boxes on narrow sidewalks, and illegal piles on sidewalks. In particular, it cannot be more urgent to address the problems of illegal parking and stopping, and illegal driving of motorcycles on sidewalks. How on earth are cars and motorcycles on sidewalks? Sidewalks are for pedestrians.
We contemplated the causes and countermeasures of various problems. First, there is no system and manual to manage sidewalk facilities. Like in many foreign cities, we should prepare a street design manual and strengthen the function of overall control of the road management department. Second, the crackdown on illegal acts on sidewalks has not been effective. In addition to the crackdown, additional measures should have been prepared to induce self-regulating maintenance. Third, citizens’ and experts’ participation in managing sidewalk environments must be increased. We must realize private and public joint governance with citizens’ participation in order to hear the opinions of many citizens and experts and to share information. To return the rights of pedestrians to citizens, we prepared 10 commandments for sidewalks. The commandments are not only about paving blocks but include all aspects of sidewalks.