Photographed by Matthew Endacott, Lianne Bronzo and Craig Batson
The sun is shining. White clouds roll across the bright blue sky. There is a slight breeze to add to this flawless day. It is spring and the new blossoms have given way to the lush green vegetation we see today. The green peaks plotted about the landscape display the splendor of nature within the city. This is the place many of us call home, Gwangju, and it is calling to be explored. There are not many better ways to appreciate these conditions than to hop on a bike and cycle around town. The benefits of cycling are limitless: it saves time and money, is magnificent exercise, unlocks previously unchartered territory, and produces sheer enjoyment, among many other advantages. “Bicycling in Gwangju is amazing. There is everything you could ever want here. My favorite is riding the roads,” said Craig Batson, an avid cyclist.
If you have been considering a bike, but continue to fret about the initial cost, it will come back to you ten fold monetarily and also lend to additional experiences you would not have otherwise had the opportunity to appreciate. Lianne Bronzo revealed her biking habits and said she does not ride taxis or the bus anymore for good reasons. “I wonder how much I save on bus and taxi fares,” said Bronzo. “I probably refill my bus card with 5,000 won once every other month. I also use a bike to commute everywhere in Gwangju. It has been a wonderful way to really get to know the city as you navigate the smaller roads where buses do not travel. I can stop and explore anywhere I want with a bike. My mental map of Gwangju has greatly improved since I started riding instead of taking a bus and I realized how small the city is. For example, it would take an hour and a half to ride a bus from Ilgok-dong to Mudeung Mountain, but it only takes 30 minutes by bicycle. I save time, get exercise, and save money- it is a win-win-win!”
There are great areas in Gwangju specifically made for the enjoyment of cycling, particularly the paths next to the river. These trails are designed so that you do not have to worry about traffic or lights, just how fast you want to “push the pedal.” If you are in the mood to go on a long and pleasurable journey there are paths that lead to Damyang, Naju, and other surrounding towns. “I love to ride along the river bike paths. The trail to Naju is particularly well laid out with beautiful views of the green grass, flowing river, and interesting bridges,” said Bronzo.
Riding a bike has its numerous advantages, but there is also a big concern: safety. If you are considering commuting via bicycle, it is important to learn what to be aware of and how to cycle in each situation. Drivers here do not pay attention when pulling out from a side street into the bike lane, which is a huge problem. “It is almost always going to be cars turning into you. There is so many side streets here that I feel like cars can pop out of anywhere. One of the main reasons I moved to riding in the road was I felt like cars were not looking for a bicycle on the sidewalk when turning so I feel much safer in the road. At least this way I know they see me,” described Batson. Always wear a helmet, have a light for night cycling, lock-up the frame of your bike (not just the tires), use your bike bell to make pedestrians aware of you, look both ways when crossing the street, and be wary of “dooring” (parked cars suddenly opening their door), instructed Bronzo.
Cycling is a great way to improve your finances, time-schedule, fitness, happiness, and experiences, in addition to helping the environment. It just so happens that Gwangju is a spectacular city to bike through. Add the two together and you should be cycling in Gwangju. When asked why he loves cycling, Batson answered, “It is the fastest way to get around the city and sometimes you will be going down a hill with a breeze in your face and I think that is about as close to a perfect moment as anything.”