A common sight in Seoul is a group of tourists following the bright picket sign at the Seoul City Tour Bus station. While the bus tour does introduce visitors to the major tourist attractions quickly and efficiently, it makes it difficult to explore the many interesting aspects of each site. To help visitors overcome this obstacle, some tour companies are starting to offer a completely different way of traveling in Seoul: bicycle tours. These tours allow people to enjoy a more interactive experience by freely engaging with Korea and its environment, which is completely different from simply watching and listening to a tour guide. One of the first companies to start offering these bicycle tours, We Ride Korea, offers unique cultural tours around Seoul. After trying the We Ride Korea bicycle tour for myself, I was amazed by the fresh experience of riding through the city in the open air, as opposed to sitting inside an enclosed vehicle.
|[Photo of myself during the We Ride bicycle tour. Photo courtesy of Mr. Themba]|
Although it is true that bicycles may not always be the most comfortable way to take a tour, We Ride Korea managed to find a way for every tourist to freely experience the city on a bicycle. In particular, the company offers visitors a variety of bicycles to choose from. Mr. Liptrot Vincent Themba, co-CEO of We Ride Korea along with Mr. Baek Si-young, explained that “visitors can choose among foldable Brompton bikes, electric bicycles, and pedicabs for their tours.” Among these bicycles, the Brompton bikes are more suitable for strong riders, while the electric bicycles are better for less-experienced riders. They have had visitors who have used a combination of all three bicycles according to each individual’s riding ability. Mr. Themba believes that “this allows people to spend the day together more comfortably.” Their tours are open to both foreign visitors and local residents, and everyone who reserves a tour in the same time slot is automatically grouped together into one tour group. By bringing together people from different countries and cultures, the tour gives participants an opportunity to network and make new friends. There are also tours available for private groups and businesses, where participants are able to build stronger relationships with each other. Anyone who is looking to explore the city and get to know new people is always welcome to come and hop on a bike.
[Some of the different types of bikes available for We Ride Korea tours.
But companies like We Ride Korea are doing much more than simply providing bicycle tours around Seoul; they are working to create a more welcoming community for visitors and residents in Korea. Mr. Themba explained that “there is currently a very passive approach to tourism in Korea,” as people simply sit on a bus and watch as things pass them by outside the window. Even if tourists do engage in a hands-on activity, “it’s all done indoors in an enclosed environment.” This limited exploration is completely different from Mr. Themba’s experiences in other cities, such as San Francisco, where he organized open bicycle party events, which were joined by more than 600 people at a time. Since then, he has been determined to bring a community-friendly culture to Seoul where people can truly connect with the country and feel welcomed. We Ride Korea has clearly achieved this goal, as visitors are now able to interact with the environment while building relationships with other people through the bicycle tours.
|[Interviewing Mr. Themba about the We Ride Korea bicycle tours;
Photo Courtesy: Jisoo Shim]
Going a step further, We Ride Korea also aims to make Seoul more environmentally friendly, and ultimately spread its business model nationwide. The company wishes to help improve the design and development of Korea’s cycling infrastructure in order to encourage more people to ride bicycles instead of vehicles. Mr. Themba said, “I believe that a good start would be to allow professional cyclists like myself to design the infrastructure instead of government officials,” as the current roads are “not very user-friendly.” At the moment, We Ride Korea is taking steps to encourage the formation of eco-friendly communities by offering bicycle tours. One of their tour programs, called “Slowroll” (social bike riding), is currently part of the Urban Renewal Project in Korea. The project’s goal is to get people out into their neighborhoods, into their communities, to discover what the city is actually accomplishing.
Many wonderful things are happening around us, but many of us are simply unaware of it. However, by taking the time to ride a bike and discover the city, we can learn to appreciate our surroundings. Mr. Themba understands the value of riding a bike to explore the world around him, and he is inviting others to do the same: “What better way to discover our community than by riding a bike? What better way to meet your neighbors than by riding a bike? Put down your phones, close your laptops, get on a bike, and ride with us.”
Sophomore (Grade 10)
Seoul Foreign School
Stephanie Park firstname.lastname@example.org
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