When I first pitched this article, my co-workers thought that I had mistaken satire for actual news. Who can blame themit’s not every day that you hear about North Korea doing something progressive.

But, believe it or not, it’s true! Photos released earlier this month show bike lanes running parallel to major roads throughout North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Biking has been banned on and off in the city (promoting independent travel isn’t really North Korea’s thing) but the number of cyclists in the capital has increased by an estimated 50% in recent years.

Bicycles are cheaper than cars and are more reliable than local buses. However, a rise in the popularity of biking has been accompanied by an increase in pedestrian collisions. North Korean cyclists are forbidden from riding on the road, making crowded sidewalks a recipe for accidents.

Installing bike lanes protects the health and safety of both cyclists and pedestrians. However, these simple strips of pavement have many other benefits, such as encouraging the use of environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

On a larger scale, efficient bike travel allows people to reach their destinations quickly and safelywhether they’re traveling to a job, school, home, or the hospital. Improving infrastructure and transportation increases access to work, education, and medical care, all of which are crucial to keeping citizens safe, healthy, and out of poverty.

So while you may not picture North Korea as a hotbed of positive change, the world should take note: bike lanes are about way more than safe cycling. (Now let’s hope North Korea pedals toward more human rights!)


Demand Equity

You’ll never guess which country is installing bike lanes

By Jill Epstein