South Korean Neighbourhood Goes Car-less For A Month

The neighbourhood of Haenggun-dong in the city of Suwon, South Korea has just gone an entire whole month without their cars. In an ini...

The neighbourhood of Haenggun-dong in the city of Suwon, South Korea has just gone an entire whole month without their cars.

In an initiative between the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and Suwon, the EcoMobility World Festival that was held in the city in September forced residents to abandon their cars throughout the duration of the event. Local residents, 4300 of them, visitors and festival volunteers had to park their cars at the perimeter of the neighbourhood, and continue their journey inwards with bicycles, pedal buses, Segways or on foot. The objective was to prove to the world that one do not really need a car to get around in a city.

All residents, young and old, got around on bicycles and other low emission vehicles for a month
image: dw.de
The initiative was the brainchild of ICLEI’s Head, Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, who felt that leaders needed to envision the needs of future cities 50 years from now, and that included reducing carbon footprints. For 2 years, he proposed the idea to mayors of cities from all over the world to no avail. In the end, Suwon was the only one who agreed to participate in the experiment.


Otto-Zimmermann said, “"It was surprising because South Korea is such a car-oriented society where people still strive to have a car in order to show their social prestige. In East Asia it's important to have such a model neighborhood."

However, following announcement of the plans, locals staged protests in front of the City Hall and some even tried to stop construction works that took place for the festival. Eventually though, the redevelopment of the city won the locals over. Before, the roads were filled with potholes and were unpaved. Now, Haenggun-dong has had a facelift and the streets are covered with slate stones. Even business owners, who initially were worried about loss of customers, found that more people were coming to the now vibrant neighbourhood.

Mayor Yeom Tae-young made the decision to declare the car-free month because he believed that for a country like South Korea, which has limited natural resources, reducing dependency on fossil fuel imports is a necessity.

"We are living in a limited energy economy," he says "We have to get off fossil fuels and prepare for the future, and the festival can be a good model for doing that."



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