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Legacy of the pandemic: Motorcycles become road desperados

Legacy of the pandemic: Motorcycles become road desperados

Posted June. 23, 2023 08:12,   

Updated June. 23, 2023 08:12


I frequently pause while walking along the sidewalk from a certain point onward. This feeling intensifies when accompanied by children, as I become increasingly nervous. The main reason behind this unease is the presence of motorcycles, which can unpredictably appear on sidewalks. It truly unsettles me whenever I witness motorcycles maneuvering through residential areas, crossing crosswalks without regard for pedestrians. I can't help but wonder, shouldn't it be the responsibility of motorcycles to exercise caution and yield to pedestrians? Moreover, why in the world are motorcycles allowed on sidewalks in the first place?

It is illegal for motorcycles to drive on sidewalks or crosswalks, but society has somewhat grown accustomed to this phenomenon. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a flourishing delivery culture and Q-commerce, consequently increasing the demand for motorcycles capable of providing on-demand delivery services. Since 2021, the number of couriers has surged 400,000 in response to the pandemic's aftermath. Astonishingly, in 2020, official statistics for the number of couriers were non-existent. We merely approximated the courier count at 100,000, representing half of the platform workers.

With the increasing presence of motorcycles on the road, road accidents are also rising. These riders, constantly racing against time for deliveries, have become road desperados. In 2017, the number of motorcycle accidents stood at 14,000. However, within just five years, this figure has escalated to 18,600, representing a 32 percent increase. Additionally, casualties have surged by 41 percent, rising from 17,000 to 24,000.

Couriers were previously overlooked regarding occupational health and safety insurance, as they were considered non-full-time workers. However, this issue has been partially addressed by revising the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act. Although outdoor activities have become more accessible these days, resulting in a decrease in the number of users or the frequency of deliveries, the problem of inappropriate motorcycle driving, which became prevalent during the pandemic, still persists.

It is particularly problematic to witness an increasing number of motorcycles on sidewalks. The cases of motorcycles being caught on sidewalks in 2021 saw a staggering 70 percent rise to 20,522, compared to the pre-COVID period in 2019. This is deeply concerning, as it is primarily due to people's mistaken perception that such actions are permitted.

A nation's traffic culture reflects the values that society prioritizes. An advanced society places emphasis on the safety and well-being of pedestrians over convenience and efficiency. For instance, countries, including France, Switzerland, and other European nations, have implemented regulations that restrict cars from driving at speeds exceeding 30km/h in city centers. Similarly, New York City has imposed speed limits for electric bicycle delivery services, ensuring that speeds remain below 20km/h. These measures demonstrate their commitment to prioritizing the right of pedestrians to walk safely, even at the expense of convenience.

Korea's road culture already prioritizes cars' convenience over pedestrians' safety. Motorcycles driving on sidewalks exacerbates the issue, posing a threat to pedestrians' safety. Once a culture is established, it becomes challenging to change. Therefore, it is crucial for us to develop strict measures to regulate motorcycles on sidewalks.