Nowadays, roads in Korean cities are full of cars. Twenty-million automobiles are registered in Korea and a number of municipalities have constantly built traffic infrastructures. In these circumstances, there have been a series of complaints related to traffic. For instance, according to Embrain, a research company, nine out of 10 people have severely complained about parking issues, and over 2,000 thousand traffic accidents have occurred in Korea.
Especially, most victims of such “hell” traffic are pedestrians. In Korea, fatalities caused by traffic accidents were 3,781 in 2018, and surprisingly, 40 percent of them were pedestrians. This is quite serious in that Korea has the highest percentage of pedestrian deaths among the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries and so numerous pedestrians get threats to their physical and mental health.
When I took a highway design course last term, an idea that the instructor suggested to students led me to write this article: “activation of on-street parking.” His opinion was as follows; “Urban places where people want to live should be built to a human scale. To make urban areas into a more human-oriented space, the presence of parked cars and trees along the edge of the sidewalk will shield people from traffic and it will result in human-friendly cities.” For citizens who do not drive vehicles, it sounds reasonable in that human beings have a priority of urban management and this fact can guarantee citizens the protection by human-scale infrastructures and policies.
However, for citizens who usually drive, it sounds cumbersome in that they have to endure heavy traffic jams caused by on-street parking and an unexpected increase in time duration of commuting. Thus, drivers have started to make maledictions of on-street parking, asserting that they are a host of logjams. A fact that there are 20 million car owners in Korea cannot be ignored by the politicians and policymakers. They tend to think that driver-oriented policies are more attractive to the public and pronounced for their features than human-oriented policies. Therefore, we cannot expect human-scale in roads and we cannot be protected by parked cars and trees from automobiles.
Citizens and professionals of urban studies must think about this situation seriously. The city should be built not for cars and buildings but for human beings. However, since the Industrial Revolution era, human beings were deprived of their “throne” of cities, and they have been overwhelmed by skyscrapers and countless automobiles. Consequently, pedestrians in Korea have no choice but to keep watching out for the cars that are speeding by.
To protect non-drivers from scudding cars and to make human-oriented cities, on-street parking should be activated. Although it will take quite a while for many people to absorb this concept, city scholars and even citizens need to change their mind to construct human-friendly cities and take actions by activating on-street parking.