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The Seoul Ditch – Better Known as the Cheonggyechon Stream

Cheonggyechon Stream in downtown core of Seoul, South Korea. Uncovered after expressway torn down. This section of bubbling natural water offers walking stones for pedestrians to cross over to the other side 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cheonggyechon Stream in downtown core of Seoul, South Korea. Uncovered after expressway torn down. This section of bubbling natural water offers walking stones for pedestrians to cross over to the other side 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  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.

Looking down Cheonggyechon Stream with downtown skyline of Seoul, 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Looking down Cheonggyechon Stream with background downtown skyline of Seoul, 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 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 

Various public art installations along the way, including sculpture of woman carrying a water jug. Cheonggyehon Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Various public art installations along the way, including sculpture of woman carrying a water jug. Cheonggyechon Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 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. 

Bike-pedestrian bridgfe further out from downtonw. Variety of areas along the Stream exhibit different personalities. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike-pedestrian bridge further out from downtown. Variety of areas along the Stream exhibit different personalities. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

This area of the stream and pedestrian walkway was devoted to a breast cancer fundraising event for a few days. Seoul,South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

This area of the stream and pedestrian walkways, was devoted to a breast cancer fundraising event for a few days. Seoul,South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 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,  

Occasionally there are exercise machine installed for anyone to use by the stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Occasional fitness equipment installed for anyone to use by the stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

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.

Bike paths along Cheongyyechon Stream are generally well-marked for cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike paths along Cheongyyechon Stream are generally well-marked for cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

One of several pedestrian bridges crossing the Stream, each a different character. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

One of several pedestrian bridges crossing the Stream, each a different design. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike share system near Cheonyyechon Stream and bike path.  Located abit away from downtown to serve weekend cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Public bike share system by Cheonggyechon Stream and bike path. Located abit away from downtown to serve weekend cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

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. 

Cycling on a bike path by the Stream  with the pet dog in side bike basket.  Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cycling on bike path by the Stream with the pet dog in side bike basket. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists and electric wheelchair user out on a fall, crisp day. Some cyclists wear bandanas over their mouths --though it wasn't very cold nor smoggy. By Cheonggyechon Stream, bike path. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists and electric wheelchair user out on a fall, crisp day. Some cyclists wear bandanas over their mouths --though it wasn't very cold nor smoggy. By Cheonggyechon Stream, bike path. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 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.

Jumping blue dolphin sculptural art work in the Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Blue dolphin sculptural art work seems to jump-dance in the Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

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.

Further Reading:
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.

Hand painted outdoor tile wall art, seen while walking along Cheongyyechon Stream 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Hand painted outdoor tile wall art, seen while walking along Cheonggyechon Stream 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

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Community gardens can satisfy more than just their gardeners’ nurturing  instincts for food and Nature. They add instant visual beauty and interest near 

Leslie St. community allotment gardens in light industrial area by Toronto's Waterfront bike-pedestrian path beside entrance to Leslie St. Spit. Gardens in existence over past 15 years. 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Leslie St. community allotment gardens in light industrial area by Toronto's Waterfront bike-pedestrian path beside entrance to Leslie St. Spit. Gardens in existence over past 15 years. 2011. Photo by J. Chong

 bike and pedestrian routes.  After all, car drivers are usually moving  too fast to encourage up close lingering and reflection on budding plants and garden art.   Sample approaches of community gardens in relation to active transportation routes, will be highlighted for cities of  Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

A Bright Spot in Industrial Area by Leslie St. Spit- Along Toronto’s Waterfront Bike Route

Leslie St. community gardens protected by fence on right. Waterfront bike-pedestrian path connects between Beaches area, east Toronto and along Lake Ontario into downtown Toronto by Harbourfront.

Leslie St. community gardens protected by fence on right. Waterfront bike-pedestrian path connects between Beaches area, east Toronto and along Lake Ontario into downtown Toronto by Harbourfront. Road is heavily used by trucks during work week 2011. Photo by J. Chong

 Fifteen years ago, before community gardens became the blooming rage for growing local food and flowers, I used to cycle to work daily and pass a large community garden along Toronto’s Waterfront bike route  –not far from the Leslie St. spit.  At that time, this garden had a low wire fence where one could look over top to see a profusion of plants, compost piles and garden lawn chairs scattered about for resting.

Now, the Leslie St. Allotment Community Gardens are protected by higher secure fencing.  But these gardens still thrive in the same location.  They have expanded and matured with some lawn grass rows and ever-thickening 

Well-loved new community gardens along abandoned Molson rail branch line off the Arbutus abanonded rail corridor.

Well-loved new community gardens along abandoned Molson rail branch line off the Arbutus abanonded rail corridor. At rail line corner stop on lst St. on bike route connecting between Granville Market and Burrard St. Bridge separated bike lanes. Vancouver BC 2011. Photo by J. Chong

 bushes.  Most likely, the choice location wasn’t because of the bike path location. It was  the reality, that sometimes people could drive and stop briefly to unload soil and other gardening tools.  Besides, the location was on a convenient plot of public land across from a light industrial area that continues to have flotillas of trucks rumbling on the road.  Thank goodness for a marked bike and walking route.  Without the Leslie St. allotment gardens and signed pathway, this area would be dull, bleak and an area to avoid.
 

lst St. community gardens line abandoned Molson rail branch line. To right of rail, is on-road bike lane. Vancouver, BC 2011. Photo by J. Chong

lst St. community gardens line abandoned Molson rail branch line. To right of rail, is on-road bike lane. Vancouver, BC 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Vancouver’s Spirited Reclaimation of Abandoned or Underused Land
Some Vancouver community gardens display creative reclamation of abandoned public right of ways and other underused land plots, such as traffic calming circles.  Just a 5-minute walk from the Granville Public Market, lst Ave. near Fir St., are recent new community gardens lining the  abandoned Molson branch rail line from the Arbutus Corridor, another abandoned rail line.

The gardens line a well used bike route that feeds to and from the popular Burrard St. Bridge separated bike lanes that are 2 blocks away. The Burrard Bridge separated bike lanes have a daily average of 5,300 cyclists. (2011)

Davis St. Village community garden in heart of Vancouver BC at Burrard and Davie St.

Davis St. Village community garden in heart of Vancouver BC at a busy corner of Burrard and Davie St. Cyclists transit, cars and pedestrians converge in this area. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 You can’t help but stop by to marvel bright red poppies, miniature tongue-in-cheek, homemade transmission line art and jewel-coloured floral annuals dotting  decorative grasses, ground cover plants and some veggies, including tomatoes.  It’s a brave garden: it has no fencing –yet. There’s even an arbour built right by the rail crossing sign.  Certainly cyclists have to slow down anyway to look,  in order to angle their wheels safely across the rail line.

One of several traffic calming circles which contain community gardens. Ontario St. bike route, Vancouver BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

One of several traffic calming circles containing community gardens. Ontario St. bike route, Vancouver BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong. A road centrepiece that slows down cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

 After cycling another 10 minutes north on the separated bike lane via the Burrard St.  Bridge, you will reach the Davie Village garden. 

This community garden is planted right in the heart of downtown Vancouver,  at a street corner thronging with people, car traffic, buses and bikes during the day.  The garden has overtaken land where there was once a gas station. The land was specially prepared to contain soil contamination for gardening on top.  There, sunflowers rise like smiling, calm faces to greet the harried crowds and traffic.

The City of Vancouver had only discovered within the last few years, that its cycling network had some major routes close to a wide range of community gardens. Here are maps that combine its bike routes and community gardens.

Bright Spots in Calgary– A Prairie City
Calgary has less of a lengthy history and number of community gardens. People tell me it’s the shorter warm growing season since it is over  400 km. north or 8 

Community garden behind Fort Calgary, historic former Northwest Mounted Police site. Along Riverside bike-pedestrian path by Bow River. Calgary, AB 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker.

Community garden behind Fort Calgary, historic former Northwest Mounted Police site. Along Riverside bike-pedestrian path by Bow River. Calgary, AB 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker.

 degrees latitude north  of  Toronto.   While Vancouver has over 2,500 community garden plots, Calgary has 30 community gardens with over 115 garden plot allotments.

So the expectation to find many of Calgary’s community gardens near its signed bike routes and paths, is a bit premature at this time.  The most obvious community garden would be a large full community garden behind Fort Calgary along the heavily used Bow River bike path in the downtown core.  If it 

Toy piglet garden amulets adorn a temporary community garden in East Village while area is under construction. Calgary AB 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Toy piglet garden amulets adorn a temporary community garden in East Village while area is under construction with new condos, parkland in downtown Calgary AB 2011. Photo by J. Chong

  weren’t for the occasional concert and staging area for annual Calgary Stampede, this flat prairie parkland is otherwise underused. The community garden is a bright spot under the blazing hot, naked sun.
 
As you continue along the path and near the heritage Simmons Bedding Factory which now house architectural offices, there are temporary community gardens in the rising, rehabilitated East Village area.  The gardens pop cheerfully and humbly amongst the construction flurry of condos, a new Central Library and more. 

Food, flowers and visual interest at Leslie St. Allotment Community Gardens. Toronto 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Butternut squash, tomatoes, flowers and visual interest at Leslie St. Allotment Community Gardens. Toronto 2011. Photo by J. Chong

 Community gardens and bike-pedestrian routes, if well-positioned and integrated into community design, enhance neighbourhood property values, health of its residents, and promote conviviality among people in shared outdoor activities.

Further Reading and More Photos of  Other Community Gardens
Calgary Horticultural Society.  Community Gardens.  List provided with links.

Chong, Jean.  People’s Oases: Community Gardens. In Cycle Write Blog. Apr. 9, 2010.

Chong, Jean.  Touring Vancouver’s Community Gardens Along its Bike Route.  In Velo-city Global 2012 Conference Blog. Apr. 15, 2011.  Includes community gardens on front lawn of Vancouver City Hall.

City of Vancouver.  Community Garden Walking and Cycling Tours. Includes maps.

Toronto Community Garden Network.  Community Gardens in Toronto and GTA. For unknown reasons, Leslie St. Allotment Gardens are not on this list.

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Winter cyclist. Calgary, AB 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Winter cyclist. Calgary, AB 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 In the midst of work on the just released blog for the Velo-city Global 2012 Cycling Conference, I discovered Third Wave Cycling Blog was featured internationally on the new EcoPressed blog

I’m one of the featured bloggers.  EcoPressed  highlights WordPress.com blogs with an environmental focus.  It is a partnership between WordPress, the ever-popular blogware and an advertising firm.  For this business partnership, there is for them, a blog monetization objective  — probably based on number of page views and clicks.  (This opinion is partially based on blogsphere scuttlebutt amongst some experienced WordPress bloggers.) 

I am not certain of the criteria selection that was used to pluck us out from thousands of blogs world-wide.  You can see  EcoPressed’s range, depth and scope for different blog topic coverage even within a subject niche:   quite mixed.

However for small firms like Third Wave Cycling, and for small-time bloggers like myself, it’s a pleasant boost.  It was early March when I noticed one day an unusual statistical spike in reader views.  Believe me, it was not an avalanche. But enough that I didn’t quite understand initially the cause, since EcoPressed highlighted an article that I wrote back in January 2011.  Usually the number of reader views spikes on the same day or shortly after publication release.

Anyway,  I have embedded the ghostly image of a winter cyclist:   fame is fleeting.  Many months from now, you may find my profile moved  deeper into the WordPress.com digital archives  and alas, becomes hidden.   But for now, here is the page.   The  Third Wave Cycling blog post that was featured on March 8th,  in EcoPressed was Winter Cycling and Cycling Infrastructure:  Stuck in a Snowbank or Moving  Along?

We welcome exposure to a completely different audience, to share with them on how cycling and hence, communities can change lives –even one bike wheel spin at a time.

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