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  • Seoul, Pedestrian-Friendly for Citizens’ Safety

  • Welfare, Health & Security News SMG 990

    Seoul is transforming from a car-centered city into a people-centered city. To this end, it is undergoing a two-track approach of creating a pedestrian-friendly city and enhancing citizens’ safety.

    A major policy of the city to enhance the safety of pedestrians is Safe Speed 5030, which will be implemented starting on April 17, 2021 following the amendment of the Enforcement Decree of the Road Traffic Act. The law lowers the speed limits in downtown Seoul to 50 km/h for main roads and 30 km/h for backstreets.

    The current speed limit of 70–80 km/h will remain for exclusive roads for motor vehicles, including Olympic-daero, Gangbyeonbuk-ro and Naebu Expressway, for vehicular mobility. The modified speed limits will be instructed to drivers through traffic safety facilities, including traffic signs and road surface markings, and drivers will be required to observe the speed limit.

    Through the Safe Speed 5030 initiative, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) aims at raising citizens’ awareness of a safe driving culture and enhancing the safety of pedestrians. In particular, the SMG expects that a citywide implementation of the Safe Speed 5030 initiative will lower the mortality rate of traffic accidents between vehicles and humans, which currently sits at 56%. In 2019, the death toll in Seoul was 2.6 out of 100,000 people, which is the lowest in the nation. However, the safety of pedestrians is relatively poor.

    The SMG and the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency will crackdown on speeding vehicles starting on March 21, 2021, before the implementation of Safe Speed 5030. For three months of grace period before the crackdown, the police will issue traffic tickets to drivers who violate the speed limit. The city and the police will examine the defects of traffic safety facilities and reinforce the monitoring of the appropriateness of the changed speed limits to minimize the inconvenience of citizens.

    The highlight of the initiative for creating a pedestrian-friendly city is to create Gwanghwamun Square as a place for pedestrians to relax and walk. The construction started on November 16, 2020 and is scheduled to be completed by October 2021. The SMG will expand and repair the eastern road of the square by the US Embassy to a 7 to 9-lane road that can accommodate two-way traffic by February 2021. The western road by Sejong Center for the Performing Arts will be incorporated into the square for pedestrians as a “square with a park” (13,950 m2), twice as large as Seoul Plaza (6,449 m2), between May and October next year. The construction will be underway in two stages in order to minimize traffic and pedestrian inconveniences.

    The SMG will minimize the inconvenience of citizens and influence on surrounding commercial areas caused by the eastern road expansion construction, and complete major processes of the construction as fast as possible considering the connection of roads following the creation of nearby Pedestrian Forest Path on Sejong-daero (1.5 km from Seoul Station to Sejong-daero Intersection).

    By February 2021, the expansion and repair of the eastern road of the square will be completed so that the traffic can pass through it instead of passing through the western road. The time to control the traffic of the western road will be decided considering the stabilization of the traffic flow up and down the eastern road. The 2020 budget of KRW 10.1 billion will be invested for the expansion and repair of the eastern road.

    The opinion suggested by most citizens will be reflected in constructing the square with the park on the west side of the square. Flowers, trees, and grass will be planted to allow pedestrians to feel the four seasons. A bicycle lane (1.5 m wide, 550 m long) will also be created to the east. Haechi Plaza and Sejongno Park will be improved to be in harmony with the square and surrounding areas.

    The construction for Gwanghwamun Square will be conducted section by section from the building of Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance, where there are lots of floating population, to Government Complex–Seoul. Citizens will be allowed to use each section as soon as the construction is finished. Beginning with the remodeling of Haechi Plaza, the floor of the square will be paved with flagstone, the stairs of the slope will be improved, and waterscape and variable facilities will be established.

    On the west side, 37 types of 317 tall trees and 30 types of 6,700 short trees will be planted so that passers-by can feel nature and the four seasons of Korea. Additionally, 33 types of 33,431 flowers will be planted while two types of grasses will be planted in the area of 2,698 m2, making Gwanghwamun Square filled with beautiful landscapes with the forest, shades, flowers, and fragrance.

    Pedestrian scramble is another example of making a people-centered city. The SMG, together with the police, has established pedestrian scrambles at 25 spots, including Jongno 1(il)-ga, where there are lots of traffic and floating population, this year.

    A pedestrian scramble is a type of pedestrian-friendly traffic signal movement where pedestrians can cross the road in any direction they want at the traffic light exclusively for them. It raises the satisfaction of pedestrians for it takes a shorter time to cross the road, and prevents traffic accidents as it stops every vehicle heading to the intersection. This year, the SMG established six times more pedestrian scrambles than before. Before, it established pedestrian scrambles at only three to four intersections per year. The SMG will continue expanding the number of pedestrian scrambles at the points where there is a large amount of floating population and many facilities that generate pedestrians. The city has plans to increase the amount by 26 by October 2021.