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Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson

Industry News:

Rubber Surface Ruins New Trail for Korean Skaters

New Trail Material Proves Too Soft and Spongy for Skating

By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson

City officials in Gwacheon, South Korea, recently opened a $5.5 million bike path, which they said would allow commuters to cycle or skate into nearby Seoul.

Only problem: they paved more than half of the 5.7 kilometer trail with a "high-impact condensed rubber," which is nearly un-skateable.

"I felt like I was skating on a blanket ... or a sponge," said Korean skater JinWoo Lee, after trying the trail.

And in fact, the trail acts like a sponge: it soaks up water.

The day before JinWoo's visit, it rained. "So, when I went there, parts of the trail were very wet, splashy and juicy."

And that, of course, made for lousy skating.

"I could skate," JinWoo said. "But doing so demanded three times more physical strength than skating on asphalt."

Officials opened the trail two weeks ago. It connects Gwacheon to Seoul's Seocho district. About 3.2 kilometers of its surface is rubber.

Urban planners evidently designed the trail with runners in mind. Its soft rubber surface should prove easy on sore knees.

The trail is also suitable for cyclists, JinWoo said. "But I can't recommend it to inline skaters. It is too soft."

That's too bad because it's a lovely trail.

"The views surrounding the trail are great," JinWoo said. "They are something people don't often get to see in a big city like Seoul."

(posted July 12, 2005)



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