Seoul’s tourist taxis turn to pedal power

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Seoul’s tourist taxis turn to pedal power


They’re cheap. They’re fun. They’re bicycle taxis.
The vehicles, which went into service earlier this month around the streets of downtown Seoul, are basically bicycles with an electric motor attached to a passenger carriage. One driver can pedal around two passengers.
The bicycle taxis originally started out taking visitors from subway stops to the Chungdong Theater. The operator of the taxis, Bicycle Media, said he got the idea for the bikes from popular shuttle buses in New York, which take visitors from major hotels in downtown to Broadway theaters.
The routes, however, have been extended to include other areas of Seoul.
In the long run, the company aims at becoming Seoul’s next tourist symbol. It’s got competition for that goal, though: A double-decker bus slathered with glitzy images of Korea has been traveling through the Cheonggyecheon area since the start of this month, and has already garnered a great deal of publicity.
The bicycle taxis are moderately priced. A ride costs only 2,000 won (around $2) per person for the first 10 minutes. Each additional five minutes costs 1,000 won.
Currently, there are only three of the taxis, which take one course through downtown. Starting in July, the company plans to start using more vehicles and around five courses.
Currently, the stops include City Square, Cheonggyecheon, Gwanghwamun and Deoksu Palace. In July, the first course will travel from Namdaemun to Gyeongbok Palace, stopping at Jeong-dong and Deoksu Palace. The second course will travel from City Hall to Cheonggyecheon Square to Gyeongbok Palace. The others will travel to areas in Myeongdong, Insa-dong and Daehangno.
Besides providing sightseeing tours, the taxis are available for rent by those arranging events for anniversaries on Christmas and Valentines.
Bicycle taxis have long been a pollution-free alternative to city sightseeing in countries such as Vietnam. Yet Seoul’s notoriously ensnared and dangerous traffic conditions have put certain limits on the operation of bicycles in the city. Speed is also a major problem: Bicycle taxis travel about 10 kilometers (6 miles) an hour at their fastest. Due to safety issues, most of the bicycle taxis travel on sidewalks, creating hassles for pedestrians.
“We definitely need cars in a city,” said Ko Chil-seok, a representative for Bicycle Media, “but we need bicycles even more. We don’t mean to drive away the cars from the streets in downtown Seoul. All we are asking is to give some space for bicyclers to travel Seoul’s streets, too.”
Bicycle taxis run from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (02) 6263-3433.

by Park Soo-mee
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