The Seoul Ditch – Better Known as the Cheonggyechon Stream
A place for commuting, walking, exercising, thinking, reflecting, talking, resting, enjoying the arts, being entertained, and communicating with nature.
When I first arrived, I read or heard somewhere that the stream brings a wind of fresh air into the central part of the downtown core in Seoul. And that was the first thing that I noticed as I took the steps from the street to the water’s edge. I heard that the stream decreased the air temperature by a few degrees Celsius. So, I also noticed that.
One has to salute the wisdom and foresight of the conceiver of this idea: tear down an expressway that covered over an old stream that was then, very polluted and replace it with a linear park.
As I walked the full length of the 8.3 km stream before it joins a river, I kept looking for fish. Halfway to the river junction, my search ended as large fishes swam about. If they are bottom suckers or fish that thrive in clean water, I do not know.
Eight Kilometre Stream with Character Changes Along the Way
One has to admire the creativity of the designer for this stream. Can one find things to complain about? (Of course, as we are good at that.) However, one must admire this new wonder of the world. It combines all the elements that
makes it a complete design. Elements of breathing fresh air, exercise, sports, the arts from visual to sensual, performance, mosaics to statue, places to sit and think, relax, to listen to the city and its creatures, light as artistic expression and live art that changes regularly with new themes.
It is a stream that changes character constantly from urban sterility to touches of rural trees and vegetation. From new concrete pathways and walls of today, to rocks that cross the stream as bridges and have seen centuries behind them. From bare concrete-faced walls to hanging natural, living wall cover that reflects the colours of autumn.
At lunchtime, the walkway is congested as any street in large cities. At other times, it is not deserted as people walk, sit and contemplate, or exercise along the stream. From formal exercise equipment to stretching along the path,
people do their thing. Closer to downtown, pedestrians are occasionally joined on the too narrow walkways with a few cyclists.
More Cyclists On Well-Designed Bike Path
However, further east there is a very well designed two-way bike path, coloured green with edge and centre lines, frequent cycling stencils and with street lighting for darkness. The path sweeps down from a parallel street along the stream and continues out to the river.
The few cyclists in the downtown sections are now replaced with a continuous stream of cyclists of all ages – the old, the soon to be old, the ones making progress in their life, and the young. Now commuting and exercising becomes the drive for cycling. Some have bandannas covering their mouths. Others have them close by, just in case.
Finally, I stumbled onto a public bike share system station, the only one I saw. It is well positioned to service the weekend crowd that wants to go for a spin.
Cycling in the City
Downtown, a fair amount of cycling is done. Much of it is on sidewalks although even in rush hours you see some cyclists taking up the inside traffic lane. Some were in ordinary work clothes, others were in their spandex and helmets with their fancy bicycles. Many had very utilitarian bicycles with a back rack and a high extension to put on too many goods for delivery.
In the urban core, the only cycling facility that I came across was a red coloured bike in front of the palace grounds where it was too packed with touring buses and cars, not cyclists.
As one leaves the downtown core, then cycling facilities started to appear. On the road paralleling the Stream, the one-way road has a bicycle lane on the left (not right) side, well-marked but not coloured.
There seems to be a good system of bike paths along the rivers, usually coloured. In suburbia, coloured bike lanes on new roads appeared regularly. Some were physically separated from motorists and pedestrians, others were not. Bike paths are also parallel to the main railway line and highway to the Incheon airport.
Making Seoul a More Liveable, Shopping City
Priority number one, get the motorcycles and mopeds off the sidewalk. Step two, remove car and truck parking on sidewalks. Then remove cyclists from sidewalks. Follow the Paris lead.
With the Cheonggyechon Stream breathing more life into its downtown core now, the heart of Seoul becoming a more dynamic, lively place.
TransLink. Removing Freeways and Reforming Buses: An Interview with Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang President of the Korea Transport Institute. In Buzzer Blog, Mar. 28, 2011.