Suwon citizens chart future course following inaugural EcoMobility World Festival

Citizens’ round-table outlines residents’ priorities for continuation of ecomobile neighborhood (c) Heung-soo Park, 2013

Organized by Suwon City, ICLEI and UN-Habitat, EcoMobility World Festival was the world's first month-long presentation of a sustainable urban transportation culture. The Festival sparked the conversion of Haenggung-dong into an ecomobile neighborhood during September 2013, implementing a car-free environment which saw 4,300 residents relinquish their automobiles and instead walk, cycle and use ecomobile vehicles in carrying out their daily routines.

Following the successful conclusion of the Festival, residents gathered on 13 November to discuss post-EcoMobility World Festival actions, under the title 'A Talk for the Sustainable Implementation of EcoMobility.' Although initial explorations of the Festival idea in 2012 mustered strong opposition, an expansive public consultation process coupled with an infrastructural overhaul of the 0.34 km2 neighborhood resulted in over 1,000 residents actively participating in Haenggung-dong Residents’ Group by the Festival opening on 1 September 2013.

Around 300 people participated in the post-Festival round-table; including 240 residents from Haenggung-dong, 13 civil activists, 15 urban and transport experts, and approximately 30 interested citizens. Mayor Yeom Tae-young, five city councilors and other city officials also joined in the exercise. “A roundtable is the most proper approach towards the realization of direct democracy,” said Mayor Yeom, noting his high expectations for the discussion.

Two pre-surveys identified the main issues for shaping the agenda. Participants concluded that the regenerated main streets of the neighborhood should operate car-free every Saturday and Sunday. The discussion identified that people consider active communication and harmony amongst residents to be the most crucial issue (33%), followed by the expansion of the car-free area (16%), maintenance of the ecomobile neighborhood from a long-term perspective (13%), and restructuring of the local economy to support the future prosperity of the neighborhood (11%). The dismantling of EcoMobility policies was advocated by a small minority (5%).

Participants expressed that the speed limit should be set below 20km, and that parking controls should be implemented by the local government in cooperation with the residents. The introduction of one-way streets was called for, as well as that future car-free weekends should be extended beyond just the main streets to the entire Festival area.

Lee Jae-Jun, Vice Mayor of Suwon remarked in closing, "While EcoMobility World Festival was driven by local government with citizens' support, now it's the citizens' turn. Building on today's discussion, it will be the citizens who take the initiative, while the administration will provide the support. I hope Suwon citizens, the main players, will lead the development of the city through proactive discussion and harmony.”

Going forward, the results of the roundtable will actively shape the city's EcoMobility policy in a process that is just beginning. Building on the changing mentalities of Suwon citizens towards EcoMobility, Suwon hopes the Festival will act as a catalyst for sweeping changes in the transportation system in the city. Owing to the support of strong leadership and engaged community participation, the month-long experiment proved that any neighborhood can transform into an area where pedestrian and cyclist activity flourishes - a bold departure from car-centric urban design.