JEJU WEEKLY

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Memory lanesJeju’s peaceful cycling trails impossible to forget
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승인 2009.10.15  12:22:41
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▲ Road etiquette on London’s traffic-laden streets couldn’t be more different fromthat of the more cyclist-friendly Jeju highways. Photo by Brian Miller


The congested and polluted roads of central London could hardly be in starker contrast to the peaceful, rural byways of Jeju Island, but that is the transition many foreigners have to make upon returning home from Jeju.

A Jeju commute can certainly set the heart racing and should never be taken lightly, but to temper this, riders are often treated to stunning scenery and the joys of deserted highways and rural trails. This can rarely be said for London; where highlights normally involve overtaking the laborious double-decker buses or out-smarting the undisputed kings of Greater London – the black taxis.

The taxis of London are in many ways comparable to their Jeju counterparts in that they are knowledgeable, nippy and never-there-when-you-need them; yet their relationship to cyclists is very different. On Jeju, cyclists are honked by taxis, but this is often in order to direct the obviously mistaken rider back to the pavement, or to offer shouts of “fighting”, as the driver wills the cyclist up an impending oreum.

Buses express less comradeship and seem to view cyclists as exotic creatures, whose behavior is unknown and unpredictable. This is best kept in mind when approaching bus stops, and the options of movement are narrowed down to a foot-high curb, or the wheels of the intercity 500 bus to Halla College.

London drivers have a somewhat more antagonistic relationship with cyclists; in that the environmentally aware, two-wheeled road-users are often viewed as trouble-making hippies, or pedaling anarchists. It is not unheard of for London bus drivers to place bets in their depots on how many cyclists they can force onto the sidewalk, or maliciously guide into murky puddles.

British taxi drivers are more personal in their style of confrontation, taking particular delight in shouting four-letter abuse from their Hackney cabs, or offering heartfelt concern that a cyclist’s riding style will one day warrant time in a hospital ward.

This is too harsh a comparison, of course. London drivers are not all malicious, the same as not all Jeju drivers are angels, but it perhaps it is the stress of life in a big city that brings out the worst in people.

Drivers in London are inherently untrusting of their road-sharing brethren, and cyclists become an easy target for over-stressed city workers, stuck in a 2-mile tail-back, on a London ring road.

This brings us back to one of the great things of being a cyclist on Jeju Island. Peace and tranquility are always within easy reach and act as a relaxant; releasing stress through the exhilaration of the ride. Any moment of annoyance or insanity is soon tempered by rolling pastures, or views of the boundless ocean.

It could be for this reason that road rage seems so much less prevalent in Jeju compared with more urbanized locations. Alas, those of us who leave Jeju to return to our native countries are often compelled to scream at a scheming bus driver, or a cheeky cabby; with fond memories of hours spent on Jeju’s peaceful cycling trails forever present in our minds.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published without the prior consent of Jeju Weekly.
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