SUWON, South Korea, August 27, 2013 (ENS) – One neighborhood, one month, no cars. When it kicks off the world’s first EcoMobility Festival on September 1, the City of Suwon will aim to prove that a truly ecomobile city – one where citizens can move freely, safely and sustainably – can exist.
A major city with over a million residents, Suwon lies about 30 km (19 miles) south of the capital Seoul.
There, on the first day of September, 4,300 residents will exchange their 1,500 petrol-powered cars for ecomobile vehicles, and adopt what festival organizers are calling “the ecomobile lifestyle” for the entire month.
Haenggung-dong, one of the most crowded neighborhoods in Suwon, will be designated as a car-free zone, where various cultural and arts performance will take place. The first vehicles are now arriving in Haenggung-dong in preparation for the festival opening.
This unique undertaking is backed by a €9 million euro public investment to regenerate the inner city of Suwon. It is part of Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young’s program to transform the neighborhood into one that prioritizes sustainability and accessibility, particularly for low-income residents whose access to employment and services has been limited.
“With this festival, we will work together to show what an eco-mobile city looks like and deliver the message that this new urban lifestyle is possible,” said Mayor Yeom. “We aim to lead and inspire other cities around the world to follow suit.”
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the world network of cities for sustainability, is organizing the festival together with the City of Suwon and UN-Habitat.
Around 5,000 international visitors, led by mayors, policy makers, CEOs and concerned citizens, will witness the transformation of the Haenggung-dong neighborhood. They will test drive human-powered and electric vehicles offered by some 40 manufacturers from eight countries, including the United States, Germany, Taiwan and South Korea.
The festival will feature a wide range of bicycles. There’s Yikebike, a tiny bike to ride, fold and walk away with under your arm; there are electric bikes by Inskey, and there’s Trimobile, a tricycle that can carry three people at a time but only requires one to pedal.
Then there’s Gobax, a customized ambulance bike, Row-n-Go, a bike that the rider pedals and rows simultaneously, and the child carrier bicycle by Zigo.
Alongside month-long exhibitions and vehicle test tracks, visitors and residents can take part in concerts, movie festivals, singing contests using pedal-powered karaoke, art fairs, street tours, conferences and workshops – all celebrating the ecomobile lifestyle.
A grand opening parade through the converted ecomobility streets of Jeongjo Road will mark the start of the Festival and the Ecomobility 2013 Suwon Congress.
The congress, the second of the EcoMobility congress series, is a platform for exchanging urban transport solutions and experiencing the ecomobile lifestyle.
“If we can’t build a truly ecomobile city, why not assemble a temporary one for a month?” said Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, creative director of the festival.
“The EcoMobility World Festival will help visualize this future with a showcase neighborhood demonstrating what a car-free, ecomobile future will look like,” he said, “a mise-en-scène in a real city, by real citizens, in real time.”
On August 15, Haenggung-dong residents began moving cars outside the festival area. Some 1,500 cars within Haenggung-dong will be stationed in parking lots outside the festival neighborhood, freeing up space for ecomobile vehicles to move freely and for street activities to flourish.
Coinciding with the anniversary of Korean liberation day in 1948, the event provided an opportunity to mark the day as a Liberation from Cars event. Led by Mayor Yeom, a fleet of ecomobile vehicles made their way through the neighborhood escorting a retinue of cars to the designated parking lots where the cars will be secured during the month-long event.