I have just returned from Seoul, a city that is showing the world how to entice people onto Healthy Streets around the clock.
My reason for visiting was to see the newly opened Seoullo 7017 – an urban motorway that has been converted into a pedestrian bridge connecting two parts of the city severed by railway lines and 16 (yes that’s right 16) lanes of highway. As well as tackling a major severance issue this project is remarkable because it has been delivered very quickly, at reasonably low cost, even with extensive stakeholder engagement. The original ‘bridge’ of Seoullo 7071 also has the potential to grow ‘tentacles’ out to connect other parts of the surrounding area.
Of course while in Seoul you cannot miss the Cheong-gye-cheon river which used to be hidden under a highway and now serves as a walking route east west across the city. It’s surprisingly peaceful, with herons fishing in the water and the breeze blowing through the trees it feels like a stroll along a rural stream, not a corridor for traversing the centre of a bustling global city. The length of it is probably what surprised me most. The Highline in New York is 2.33km, the Promenade Plantee in Paris is 4.7 km but the Cheong-gye-cheon river is 10.9 km long.
I was surprised to also come across a railway line that has been converted into a linear park that I have never heard of even though it opened in 2015 after several years of development. Gyeongui line park is even more impressive than the bridge or the river and I think you would need to go there to see why. It is the people that make the place and it has been designed so thoughtfully that it is a place where everyone feels welcome and the community comes together.
I found so many great streets in Seoul, here are some highlights showing well used public spaces both day and night across the city.
And if you’re wondering, yes all of these streets accommodate motorised vehicles as well as being welcoming places for people to spend time in and travel on foot.