The industrial city of Changwon in South Gyeonsang Province is grabbing headlines for leading the country’s new focus on implementing various bike-friendly policies.
According to city officials, Changwon has recently introduced a series of new incentives for promoting the use of bicycles as everyday means of transportation and physical exercise.
In particular, the city with a population of about 500,000 launched the Nubija project last October, a public bicycle-rental program for citizens modeled after a similar practice under way in France.
It has become a trademark of Changwon’s new identity as Korea’s “mecca of bicycles.” Around 430 bicycles are parked for rental at designated terminals near the city’s signature facilities and schools.
Changwon also has the highest percentage of bicycle-only lanes in the country.
“We plan to increase the number of Nubija bicycles to 5,000 by 2013 and eventually add more bicycle terminals,” a city official said.
Since 2007, Changwon has marked itself as the country’s leader in expanding the usage of bicycles. Mayor Park Wan-soo is among many of its citizens commuting to work on a Nubija bicycle.
“We will continue to promote the use of bicycles in an effort to become the world’s foremost bicycle-friendly city,” said Park.
In addition, Changwon became the first Korean city to adopt an accident insurance policy for cyclists last September. It also offers monetary incentives for those who cycle to work.
Currently, those commuting to and from work for more than 15 days per month on a bicycle are entitled to 30,000 won per month from the city administration.
“Biking to work is a sensible practice, as there is no reason to worry about parking, you save spending on gas and get a good physical workout on a regular basis,” said a city official.
They city has also installed an education center for cyclists where they can learn more about how to become a safe and informed rider. The center also offers free bicycle repair services.
Changwon is one of the hosts of a nationwide bicycle festival, which starts Saturday through May 3.
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Changwon is Mecca of Bicycle (Korea)