March 25, 2015


Last week Hyogo Prefecture passed a new ordinance requiring bicycle owners to purchase liability insurance making it the first (and hopefully last) prefecture in Japan to make such a misguided decision. The new law, which comes into effect on October 1st, applies to all cyclists regardless of the purpose of their bicycle journeys and is said by the Governor to be a response to a rising number of incidents where cyclists have injured and in some cases killed pedestrians. 

Bicycle retailers will be asked to confirm if customers have liability insurance at the time of sale and encourage those that don't to acquire an insurance policy. Parents and guardians of underage bicyclists will be required to purchase insurance for them, and companies will be encouraged to cover the cost of insurance for employees who ride for business purposes.

The Hyogo Traffic Safety Association will begin accepting insurance applications, which range in price from ¥1,000 to ¥3,000 and provide maximum compensation from between ¥50 million and ¥100 million, from the beginning of April.

But similar to the nationwide bicycle registration laws, there is no penalty for violating the new ordinance which makes one wonder just why the Hyogo Prefectural Government went to such lengths, and indeed expense, to implement a law that nobody will feel the need to obey. 

Despite being a "mandatory cycling insurance" law most cyclists will opt out without punishment. The government can "ask" retailers to "encourage" people to purchase insurance all they like, but at the end of the day retailers will still sell bicycles to uninsured customers. They can "suggest" companies cover employees who cycle till they're blue in the face, but can't actually enforce anything because the law carries no penalties.

What an epic waste of taxpayers money. How much did it take to plan, write, pass and implement such a stupid ordinance? How much will be spent promoting this "requirement" that isn't a "requirement" at all?

Since a landmark case in 2013 when the Kobe District Court ordered a mother pay the extra ordinate amount of ¥95 million in damages after her son struck and killed an elderly pedestrian, not a week has gone by without a newspaper article playing up the danger that cyclists pose to pedestrians, and pointing out that in such cases the cyclist is financially liable. This sudden media attention has made it easy for politicians to claim "increasing bicycle accidents between cyclists and pedestrians" without having to back these claims with hard facts. The insurance industry has been whipped into a frenzy at the possibility of expanding into an emerging market and have no doubt been fanning the fire by lobbying local Governments to pass laws that would make bicycle insurance mandatory.

So rather than provide infrastructure that would see pedestrians, cyclists and motorists all safely separated, and result in fewer accidents the Hyogo Prefectural Government have chosen to maintain a dangerous environment and place an additional financial burden on cyclists in the form of mandatory insurance which isn't really mandatory at all. 

This is the kind of idiocy we as cycling activists in Japan have to deal with on a daily basis.

How long before some misguided Prefectural Government implements a mandatory helmet law reducing cyclist numbers forever? I dread the day.

March 14, 2015

Bikevibe Tokyo is the first edition of the highly awaited Bikevibe Semiannual City Journal Series edited by Norway based writer, designer and photographer Mari Oshaug.

This beautifully produced softbound book consists of 200 pages packed with full colour photographs and enlightening articles that celebrate Tokyo's cycling culture and Japanese bicycle design.

Within its pages you'll discover a range of articles and interviews about cycling in the mega-city of Tokyo including stories about Tokyo's vintage bicycles, the first graduates of Shibuya's frame builders school, a look at the history and future of Tokyo Bike belong with an overview of Japan's famous (and not so famous) cycling brands which reveals a number of facts even I wasn't aware of.

Among the interviews is a short interview with me, how I arrived at where I am today, and my thoughts on cycling in this wonderful city of ours. For the infrastructure addicts out there I penned an article for the book on Tokyo's recent efforts to improve cycling infrastructure in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But by far one of the biggest attractions of this book is the hundreds of full colour photographs of bicycles and cyclists accurately documenting the current state of cycling in Tokyo, Japan.

As the Bikevibe Tokyo has been self published there are only a limited number available so be sure to get yours before they run out!















March 08, 2015

I grew up with a close cousin 4 years older than myself, his name was Michael and he was born with Down Syndrome. In our family he was never "disabled", instead he was "special". OK, so "special" was merely a poorly disguised cover word for "disabled", I know that now, but now I also know Michael truly was special.


Michael was gifted with a photographic memory. He stored away every moment he experienced and constantly reminded us of family events, who was present and what was said long after everyone had forgotten. He used this amazing memory to effortlessly remember names of players and statistics for his favourite sports of Australian Rules Football, cricket, tennis and golf. His favourite food alternated between a solid roast meal and a simple Vegemite sandwich. When sick, as he often was as a child, Vegemite sandwiches were the only thing that kept him alive.

Growing up with Michael helped shaped me into who I am today, he taught me compassion in a way nobody else could and for that I'm grateful. At an age when children point, stare and make rude comments about anyone "different" I had already learned to accept people based on more than their appearance or abilities and defended him fiercely. Often I'd cry "He's not dumb/stupid/fat/weird, he's special!" before getting into a vigorous childhood scrap.

As an adult Michael was entitled to a Disabled Pension, yet he spent his days painting surveyors pegs and sorting bottles at a local recycling facility. His payment was the pension he was entitled to all along. I've always been proud that he worked rather than simply accepted a handout.

As we grew up my life moved on, while his routine barely changed, and we saw less of each other. At the time he passed away I had been living overseas for over a decade with a family of my own and had not spoken to him for years. It pains me that I did not do more for him, a simple phone call, a present from Japan in the mail, anything.

He was special. He shaped me. I owe him.

In 2010 I ran the Tokyo Marathon successfully raising over $650 for Down Syndrome Tasmania who surprisingly asked if there way a particular way I'd like the money to be used. Being a parent of two children myself nothing brings me more pleasure than seeing them having a good time. A trip to the ice rink, an afternoon of horse riding, the chance to jump on a trampoline, small things to us, but to a child they're happy memories that will be treasured forever.

Some choose to support research, I choose to support fun times.

Frivolous? Maybe. Worthless, most certainly not.  



March 21st, 2015, is World Down Syndrome Day and I'd like to ask that if you're a regular reader who appreciates the time and effort I put in to Tokyo By Bike, or you've occasionally stumbled upon the odd article that struck a chord, then please support me by supporting my favourite charity, Down Syndrome Tasmania. Nothing will encourage me to serve you better than seeing the donations rack up and imagining the smiles those donations will bring to kids who deserve a good time.

This donations page will be active for 2 months, and I think $1,000 is a modest goal, so please give as little or as much as you can afford. Its all appreciated.

I will tweet my heartfelt thanks for all non anonymous donations.
Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe announced last week that the heads of the four central Tokyo wards of Chiyoda, Minato, Chuo and Koto have reached an agreement which will finally see their, until now illogically separate, bicycle sharing programs integrated.  Beginning in 2012 each of the wards have gone about individually implementing their own bicycle sharing systems in cooperation with NTT DoCoMo yet until now each of these systems had been independent. 


Until this announcement it had been impossible to borrow a bicycle in one ward and return it to another. Anyone wishing to do so would have to pay for separate memberships in each of the wards and change bicycles at the border, rendering the entire system comically useless compared to the city wide bicycle sharing schemes of Paris, London and New York. Under this new agreement bicycle share users will finally have the freedom to travel between wards without the need for multiple memberships or changing bicycles.

But now Governor Masuzoe must turn his attention to an even more difficult problem as the autonomy of Tokyo's wards is also taking its toll on city wide cycling infrastructure. 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is responsible for just 2,000km of Tokyo's public roads, with the remaining 18,000km under the control of local governments.  Each local government has their own standards and policies for cycling infrastructure with some championing protected bicycle lanes while others opt for blue paint, or sidewalk level bicycle lanes.

In addition to this the Governors plans for a city wide network of bicycle lanes before the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are also hampered by the fact that a lack of coordination between local governments means that while they may be working hard to improve cycling infrastructure in their individual wards these networks may not necessarily link up to the network in the neighbouring ward.


Not only is this a headache for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, this lack of uniformity across the city adds to the confusion of cyclists and will ultimately make the cycling environment more dangerous despite good intentions.

Going forward it is positive that bicycle sharing systems and cycling infrastructure are being considered at such a high level of government and that there appears to be a commitment to making improvements.  We can only hope that Tokyo looks towards countries such as The Netherlands and Denmark for inspiration and doesn't choose to go it alone making all the mistakes we've seen in the past.

February 24, 2015

Cycling to work in Tokyo may do more than just keep you healthy, fit and happy, it also may help you earn a little additional income on the side if our employer isn't smart enough to have a bike to work policy in place.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare 86% of Japanese employers pay the commuting fees of their employees, and as the majority of employees in Tokyo travel to work by train companies usually take the easiest route when it comes to payments and simply deposit the cost of of a monthly commuter pass into the accounts of their employees along with their wages each month.  Bicycle commuters, however, exist in a grey zone. As most companies have no policy surrounding bicycle commuting (other than often trying to ban employees from cycling to work) they continue to deposit commuting allowances into the accounts of those who choose to cycle to work.

So by cycling to work in Japan, you're not just saving money, you're making money. In my case for example, my employer deposits ¥9,660 into my account each month to cover the cost of a commuter pass between my home station and work, yet I choose to cycle, paying just ¥100 per day for bicycle parking. Working on the assumption of 20 work days in a month I will pay ¥2,000 each month for bicycle parking and pocket the remaining ¥7,660. Thank you very much!

Some however have questioned the soundness of my theory when taking into account what they call the "hidden costs" of bicycle commuting, arguing that the cost of maintenance, clothing and equipment will quickly consume any additional income received.  Not surprisingly the people who believe cycling is expensive are recreational rather than utilitarian cyclists as they quote the need for cycling specific clothing and kit that really isn't necessary for the everyday cyclist.


Some of the "hidden costs" raised include:

The Cost of Bicycle Maintenance


Bicycles must be properly maintained in order to be both comfortable and safe. But personally I spend very little each year on maintaining my bicycle, occasionally I'll replace brake pads, or cables, but rarely have to purchase tubes or pay for puncture repairs since fitting a pair of indestructible Schwalbe Puncture Proof tyres to my commuter bicycle.  In fact new tyres are always the most expensive maintenance item on my list, but as they only need replacing every few years the cost isn't that great when averaged out over the length of use. Bicycle maintenance barely makes a dent in my budget.

The Cost of Cycling Clothing


Helmets, gloves, wind shell, thermal underwear, backpacks, and socks were all cited to me as significant hidden costs of bicycle commuting, But when you commute in your work clothes and average out the cost of some winter kit over the lifetime of its use you're really not spending a significant amount each year. The only speciality clothing item I own, that I probably wouldn't otherwise, is a Wind Stopper (Gore Tex) jacket I purchased on sale for less than ¥2,000 well over 10 years ago, everything else I need for cycling to work comes directly from my wardrobe.

The Cost of Consumables


Here is a hidden cost I don't often think about, but one that is certainly a slow drain on my finances, consumables. I'll admit I seem to be constantly replacing batteries in my lights and in the summer I use alcohol wipes to freshen up with when I arrive at work. While they are expenses I would not incur when if commuting by train they are insignificant ones at that.

The Cost of Cycling Insurance


While not necessary, if you're spending a lot of time on the roads of Tokyo on your bicycle it is probably a good idea to have some form of insurance to cover yourself (and a third party) in the unlikely event of an accident. Almost every major insurer in Japan offers cycling insurance and with a number of high profile accidents in the news lately insurers are paying a lot more attention to cycling insurance and competition in the area to offer more for less is heating up. Perhaps the most simple way to purchase cycling insurance is via the Internet or an electronic kiosk at any 7/11 convenience store where cycling insurance can be bought for as little as ¥5,000 per year.

Hidden Transport Costs 


Utilising a commuter pass a round trip to work is ¥483 while to cost of a regular ticket for the same journey is ¥600. Therefore on days when the weather isn't conducive to cycling, days I'm feeling under the weather myself, and days when I plan to have a drink or two after work, I have to pay the full ¥600 ticket price, a significant ¥117 more than the commuter ticket price. Fortunately, unless I'm taking the train an awful lot during the month I don't end up out of pocket and if I believe its going to be a terrible month for cycling (for example during Tokyo's notorious rainy season) I may deem it more economical to purchase a commuter pass and forgo the bicycle until the weather clears up.



While there are expenses related to cycling to work, the expenses encountered by a utilitarian cyclist who rides to work on a modest bicycle while wearing regular clothing are far less than those incurred by recreational cyclists who believe they need special kit to cycle to work. You don't, if you have a bicycle you already have everything you need, all the rest is just marketing hype. If your employer continues to pay you a commuter fee even if you chose to cycle then you'd be crazy not to do the math, because you will be better off financially (not to mention that you'll be healthier, stronger, fitter, and happier too!)

On the other hand, if you're an employer and you continue to pay bicycle commuters a commuting fee based on their train journey then we need to talk about implementing a bike to work policy within your company, as having one will substantial savings, and result in happier, healthier and more productive employees. Trust me, its true.

February 17, 2015

Splish, splash we're takin' a bath on the Night Pedal Cruising Onsen Ride Saturday February 21st!

This month, as we do in February each year we're cycling to Shinagawa where we'll visit the beautiful onsen "Shumizu Yu" to warm our bodies in one of the many hot, hot indoor and outdoor baths.

Riders will gather under the Night Pedal Cruising banner at the Aoyama United Nations University Farmers Market at 5:00pm on Saturday February 21, and will set off at 5:30pm.  We'll cycle a meandering course around the city taking in the sights of the nigh before finishing up at the onsen in in Shinagawa.

To bathe at the onsen or not is completely up to you. But as Shimizu Yu charges just ¥460 for use of the facilities you'd be crazy no to on a cold February night.

A the first man to cycle around the world, Thomas Stevens, noted on his travels in Japan in 1886 (Before he whipped off his trousers and waltzed into the tub):

The Japanese are more addicted to hot water bathing than the people of any other country.

As always dress warm as Night Pedal Cruising rides travel at a leisurely pace, and remember to bring lights, cameras (no nude pictures in the onsen please!) bells, whistles, and any kind of mobile sound system you may have.

For more information visit the Night Pedal Cruising event page.

February 05, 2015

世界有数の巨大都市、東京では、自転車は14%もの交通分担率を得ている。もっと高い数字を自慢できる都市も他には有るが、世界中でも特に大きく人口が密集している都市で、一日の全トリップの14%が自転車で占められているのは本当に凄いことだ。東京はもっと誇って良い。

しかし、 これほど高い数字が有りながら、自転車通勤者の数は少ない。大きな理由は、速くて清潔で効率的な公共交通システムがあり、それが通勤者にとって、他の移動手段よりも都市の足として便利だということだ。西洋では多くの場合、日常生活での自転車利用率は自転車通勤者の数と密接な関係にあるが、東京の場合、企業は従業員の自転車通勤を抑制することに積極的で、自転車の平均トリップ距離は2kmに満たない。

では、 市民の大部分が電車で通勤する都市で、なぜ自転車が盛んに利用されているのだろうか? 日常生活の一体どこでそんなに自転車が使われていて、14%ものトリップ分担率になるのだろうか? 手短かに言えば、東京の自転車利用者は都市近郊地域に集中していて、日常生活に必要な多くの外出を日々自転車でこなしており、自宅の数キロメートル圏内からわざわざ出ることは滅多にないのだ。都心部へ行くなら充実した公共交通があるので、東京の市民が自転車に乗る範囲は、ほぼ完全に、自分が住んでいる地域内に限られる。その理由を理解するには、東京近郊の典型的な地域構造を理解する必要がある。

東京の地域は、小さくて自己完結していた昔の村に似ている。村の中心には鉄道の駅があり、村のあらゆる活動の中心点になっている。住民の大半は鉄道を利用しているので、村に出入りする場合は必ず駅を通ることになる。これにより、駅は近郊地域の中心点になるのだ。東京では一日2千万人の鉄道利用者のうち、20%が自宅から最寄り駅まで自転車に乗っており、自転車利用者の数に応えられるだけの駐輪場を駅周辺に整備することは、地方自治体にとって大きな課題になっている。東京近郊の鉄道駅には駐車場が無いので、残りの80%の乗客は駅まで歩いている。[訳注 駅によっては路線バス利用者が1割ほどを占めている場合がある。]

このように多数の歩行者と自転車利用者が毎日駅に集まってくるので、商人は駅を中心とする円の中や、駅から放射状に延びる通り沿いへの出店に意欲的だ。歩行者の流れの多い場所が儲かると分かっているからだ。こうして、この円形の商業区域にはパン屋、八百屋、肉屋、魚屋、診療所、歯医者、銀行、レストラン、クリーニング店、美容室、スーパーなど、日々の生活に必要な店が全て揃う。

東京西部の仙川駅。駅から半径250mの範囲内に、スーパー、レストラン、診療所、コンビニ、銀行、郵便局、そして小規模な店が多数集まっている。

東京近郊では、地元の商店と自転車利用が共生的な関係にある。小規模な店が密集しており、歩道上への駐輪が容認されていることで、自転車が盛んに利用されている。逆に言えば、多くの人が自転車で、買い物の際に店から店への移動(トリップ・チェイン)を積極的に行なっていることで、小規模な店が栄えている。最近の研究では、自転車利用者の多さと小規模な店の売り上げに直接の関係があることが示されており、世界各国の都市は今、その事実に気付き始めているところだ。

仙川駅から1km以内の居住区域は隣の地区と重なり合っており、住民は「隣村の中心」にも自転車で簡単に行ける。
商業地区の周囲に形成される大きな輪が村の居住区域だ。主に一戸建てやアパートが立ち並ぶ居住区域だが、コンビニや診療所、学校や幼稚園も点在している。運動場や公園は言うまでもない。駅の間隔が短い場合、住民は隣村の中心にも自転車で買い物に行ける場合が多い。歩きでは面倒な距離も自転車のホイールの下ではすぐに流れ去る。

23区の地図に個々の村を中心とする1kmゾーンを描き込むと、東京が自転車に便利な都市であることが明らかになる。個々の地域には便利な公共交通が通っており、2〜3kmを超える移動に使われている。しかし、どの地域も家から最寄り駅や隣の駅までの距離に多数の商店があるので、2〜3km程度の移動なら自転車に勝るものはない。
結論として、東京の村人が日々の生活で必要とするだろうものは全て、家から少し歩いた範囲内、自転車ならもっと短い時間で行ける範囲内に揃っており、最寄り駅の近くや、同じ路線の隣駅の近くで手に入れられる。このようにして、日本の都市近郊は自分では意図もせずに自転車の利用を促進している。徒歩より速く、車より便利、そして自転車で行ける距離にほぼ何でも揃っていることで、自転車は日本の都市近郊で最もよく目にする交通形態になっているのだ。

This article has been translated from the original English version by ろぜつ.

January 28, 2015

The Tour de Holland to Flanders, Belgium, in Tokyo is an annual cycling event hosted by The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions, VISITFLANDERS and the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in cooperation with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and he Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium.

Photo by E. Dronkert

On April 12, 2015, participants will gather at the Netherlands Embassy for coffee and a small bite to eat before setting off in small groups from 9:30am on a 13km guided bicycle ride through the streets of Tokyo. The route will take them past many of Tokyo's most well known attractions including Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace East Gardens and Tokyo Station before completing their journey at the Belgium Embassy.

After collecting stamps at designated stops along the route participants will have the chance to win tickets for two from Tokyo, Osaka or Fukuoka to Amsterdam flying with ride sponsor KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

The Tour de Holland to Flanders, Belgium, in Tokyo was first held in 2013 to increase awareness of Dutch and Belgian cycling cultures in Japan and to encourage bicycle lovers to travel to the two countries, since then it has become an annual event of cultural exchange.

An event for lovers of bicycles bicycle culture this ride presents participants with a wonderful opportunity to meet likeminded cyclists from around the world to share stories and make new friends.

The ride is limited to just 300 participants and costs ¥4,000 for adults and ¥1,000 for children under 15 with pre-registration from February 1st until March 20th via the Sports Entry website.


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