Press Briefing on Sidewalk Management
Date: April 25, 2012
Venue: Briefing Room, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall
I consider this one of my most important presentations so far, and there is a good reason why I have decided to give this presentation myself.
Before becoming the mayor, I walked down the sidewalks of Seoul frequently and always used public transportation, and I remember the enormous stress I often felt while walking. This city’s poorly-built sidewalks eventually bothered me so much that I had to take action. I am sure that many citizens are greatly inconvenienced by year-end construction projects and road work that tear up the sidewalks. Aside from the budget required for such work, I am pretty sure that most citizens feel as I do in respect to such practices.
I think of paving roads as a kind of “show window administration,” and if you have seen how sidewalks are affected by this practice, you are likely aware of how the city’s policy is put into action. I imagine you have been disappointed by it. After my inauguration, I prepared for this presentation by holding a series of closed-door meetings with the relevant divisions, and with what I have learned, I will root out this 60-year practice regarding sidewalks. I will take the first step toward creating a “Walking Seoul”.
Seoul citizens spend an average of seven hours per day on the street, and the total length of Seoul’s sidewalks is about 2,788 kilometers. Beginning and ending their days on the street, Seoul citizens really should be able to enjoy their time walking there, but in reality, they have a very hard time walking down the street. A person bound to a wheelchair feels their limitations every single moment, but the height of the curb should not be one of them. Therefore, I will see that the curb height is adjusted to one centimeter. I will also ensure that Seoul citizens are aware of these improvements being made in our city. Another inconvenience faced by Seoul citizens is all of the obstacles on the sidewalk, such as newsstands and so forth. This issue is more serious in the northern part of Seoul. Since the sidewalks are quite narrow, it makes it even harder for pedestrians to navigate their way around such obstacles. So, I will attempt to address this issue through collaboration with Seoul’s autonomous districts. We will crack down on sidewalk stands that impede pedestrian movement and issue fines. Also, during road construction work, large amounts of construction materials are often placed on the sidewalks. Thus, I will work to minimize the pedestrian inconvenience caused by this. Another major issue is that of cars parked illegally on the sidewalks. This issue requires greater citizen awareness and understanding, as these drivers park their cars as close as possible to where they are going just out of convenience, showing a lack of consideration for others. From January to March, about 30,000 cases of such illegal parking were reported. Recognizing the severity of this issue, we will punish violators without exception for such illegal parking.
Before I became the mayor, I wrote about this issue on my blog, “Wonsoon.Com Blog”. As you may know, medieval cities in Germany are still quite solid, and the sidewalks that they built long ago are still firm and strong. As a mayoral candidate, I made a pledge to create “a city where you want to walk,” and I said that after becoming mayor, I would become “a mayor of sidewalks”.
To address these issues, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will unveil its “Ten Sidewalk Commandments”.
1. A real-name sidewalk construction system will be implemented. From start to finish, the names of those in charge of sidewalk construction projects will be released to the public.
2. The existing “one-strike” system, which was established to prevent poor construction, is inadequate. So, we reviewed sidewalks built within the last two years, visited 317 sites, monitored 136.7 kilometers of sidewalks, and received 620 complaints. We aim to complete the overall monitoring process by May this year. As part of this effort, construction companies as well as supervisors will be held accountable for the quality of their work. Most small-scale construction projects are supervised by the Seoul Metropolitan Facilities Management Corporation, and today, the chairman and staff members of the corporation are here to share their ideas. Could you please come forward? I would like you to make a promise with me. When supervising the construction projects, I don’t think you visit the site in person. However, by only reviewing construction-related documents, you are allowing problems to arise. The examples of Bangbae-dong and Pyeongchang-dong, where I noticed that the construction work was done very poorly, have been posted on my website. I also plan to visit areas where sidewalk construction work was completed most recently. I think this might motivate you to make a change, right?
3. To ensure pedestrian safety, temporary sidewalks will be built and “safety helpers” will be dispatched to construction sites. We will make practical changes.
4. “Sidewalk Construction Closing 11” means that sidewalk construction will not be carried out in the winter. That fact that most construction projects are launched at the end of each year has irritated many citizens. Excluding urgent cases, sidewalk construction work will not be carried out in the winter.
5. Anyone who damages the sidewalks will be held accountable, according to the so-called “causer must pay principle”. Any drivers causing damage to sidewalks will also be held accountable. Systematic research on sidewalks related to this issue is now being conducted.
6. A total of 424 local residents will serve as street monitors for a period of one year. At the end of the year, in December, the best performing monitors will be awarded.
7. We will soon make an announcement that all Seoul citizens will become participants in the street monitoring effort. A report system will be put in place that allows anyone to easily report sidewalk issues immediately. Why don’t you give it a try? Also, civil complaints can be posted on the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s GIS portal website, “Let’s Change the Street”. Taking advantage of the collective intelligence and effort of the public, this website will be used to manage Seoul’s sidewalks, and it is our first attempt to use such a community mapping system. “Let’s Change the Street” is managed by civic groups, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s reporting website can be accessed through it as well.
8. Under the slogan, “Pedestrians Embracing Sidewalks,” we are already cracking down on illegal parking, the driving of motorcycles, and the placing of construction materials on our sidewalks. Parking with two wheels on the sidewalk will also be prohibited. In particular, we receive reports of illegally parked motorcycles constantly, with some citizens even raising the issue via Twitter.
9. A “bank” for sidewalk construction will be operated. Currently, reports of sidewalk damage are not addressed immediately due to a lack of materials in storage. So, in an effort to accelerate the repair process, the supply of sidewalk construction materials will be increased by three percent and stored in a materials “bank”.
10. This initiative will not be successful through the effort of the Seoul Metropolitan Government alone. So, Seoul’s 25 autonomous districts, KT Corporation, the Korea Gas Safety Corporation, the Office of Waterworks, and related institutions will all join forces to make it a reality. We will make sure that all newly constructed sidewalks will last for more than 10 years. Working in close collaboration with related institutions, we will authorize only the sidewalk construction work that is urgently required.
As the first mayor working to create a “Walking City, Seoul,” I promise to carry out these “ten commandments” by the end of this year. In the future, the sidewalks you walk on will be built on “satisfaction, legitimacy, safety, and consideration”.
Franz Kafka once said, “A good-natured man matches your stride.” Recognizing this, we will provide you with sidewalks on which you can walk side by side with your loved ones. Beginning with this initiative, we will make Seoul a wonderful place to take a walk, and will guarantee all citizens’ right to walk comfortably, making every effort to transform Seoul into a “Happy City to Walk”.