▲ Cycling has proven increasingly popular over the years among locals and tourists. Photo courtesy Jeju City Hall
On June 10 to 14, Jeju Island hosted the 2nd annual Jeju International Bicycle Challenge, attracting 900 Koreans and foreigners to compete, or challenge themselves, on a variety of bike courses.
The Jeju International Bike Challenge was one of multiple cycling events slated for 2011 as an initiative to promote cycling and tourism on Jeju. The four-day event brought 600 Koreans from the mainland to join in the challenge with 300 Jeju residents and 60 foreigners who are currently living in Jeju.
For years cycling has been popular on Jeju. With 22 cycling clubs and numerous bike shops, Jeju, unlike many other Korean provinces, provides everything a cyclist needs. With fine weather and beautiful scenery, the island is the perfect place for a cycling retreat.
Kim Sung-chan, president of the Jeju Bicycle Association, states that the Jeju local government has been inspired to invest in and promote bike tourism on Jeju Island by President Lee Myung Bak’s personal interest in cycling. For those seeking a relaxing and enjoyable bike holiday, Jeju offers quality accommodation and beautiful scenery. Along with its reputation as a sports paradise, Jeju is increasingly becoming a popular destination for bike tourism.
Over the past few years, cycling has become more and more popular with Jeju residents and university students living on the mainland. Each summer, students flock to Jeju to cycle and enjoy the beautiful scenery. According to Kim Sung-chan, the Jeju local government plans to capitalize on the growing interest in cycling and Jeju’s natural beauty by heavily promoting “bike tourism” to university students living on the mainland. Such promotions will include discounted travel tickets for those competing in the bicycle challenge and the promotion of camping as a cheaper alternative to expensive accommodations that could deter students living on a budget.
However, the promotion of the Jeju International Bicycle Challenge and the targeting of advertising to university students are not the only ways in which the local government plans to promote cycling on Jeju.
According to Kim Dae Hyeong, an officer in charge of urban design on Jeju, a bicycle program has been regularly financed since the enactment of legislation in January of 1995. He acknowledges the importance of promoting cycling not only as a means to increase tourism but also to lessen the environmental impact of cars.
“In order to transform problems like expensive energy, air pollution and heavy traffic into energy-free, chemical-free, environment-friendly green transportation for the well-being of our citizens, it is very necessary to build a bicycle lane program. Therefore, the government [has] unveiled a fresh policy on bicycle vitalization to encourage [more] people to bike on Jeju Island,” he said.
This policy is to include safer bicycle routes that will connect to souvenir shopping and rest houses while maintaining the integrity and safety of the Olle walking trails. Since the Olle trails have been considered a symbol of Jeju Island, it is important to maintain the safety of people walking them.
Like the Olle trails, the bike routes are being created for leisure and relaxation and will go along the coast, making a connection from the coastal road to the Ilju Road in the northwest part of the island. Due to the success of the Olle trails, it is believed that the creation of a bike road will also help the local economy by increasing the number of tourists that visit Jeju each year.
Asked what agency would be in charge of implementing these programs, Kim Dae Hyeong stated that “the policy of the program is now under the charge of the construction department of Jeju City and the construction and transportation department of Seogwipo City,” explaining that the Jeju Self-Governing Province Urban Design Office would maintain the business aspect of the program.
Despite the wishes of some Jeju residents, there are currently no plans to create mountain bike trails that would ascend Mt. Halla or Jeju oreum.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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