July 01, 2015

Tell kids they’re going on a walking tour of a city, and they may be interested for a while – until their legs give out and boredom sets in. Tell them they’re biking around a city, and they’ll be attentive and happy for hours. Renting bikes and taking city bike tours is the ultimate life hack of family traveling. It’s a great way to explore your own city with your family, too.

Finding Great Bike Tours

The easiest way to explore a city on a bike is through a bike tour. Tour guides who know the city will navigate, leaving you free to enjoy the experience with your family. Plus, bike tours provide the bikes, so you don’t need to worry about renting them. The best city bike tours combine biking fun with cultural and historical lessons. Look for a tour operator that caters to kids (you’ll see kid-sized rentals available and photos of kids on the website), offers multiple stops en route, and provides snacks. Aim for a tour that’s shorter than four hours long. My favorite bike tour operator is Bike and Roll, located in cities all over the United States.

Sizing a Bicycle for a Child
Source: Fix.com

Bike Rentals for the Whole Family

If you opt to rent bikes on your own, do your research ahead of time to ensure bike rentals will be available for everyone in your family.

Size kids on bikes before leaving home: Check your kids’ bike sizes (often determined by the wheel size) before your trip. This way, you’ll be able to accurately communicate to bike rental companies what size you’ll need. Kids should be able to stand astride their bike and place both feet on the ground.

Call rental companies ahead of time: When you call to check bike inventory, let bike rental shop personnel know the exact size of the bikes you’ll need. Ask about bike trailers and infant bike seats for younger riders, but be sure they’re offering a model you’re comfortable with. Don’t forget to ask about helmet rentals, too.

Just because you can ride somewhere, doesn’t mean you should: After ensuring the rental company can accommodate all ages, ask about safe biking routes. Just because your preschooler can ride in a given city doesn’t mean there are safe routes for doing so. The good news: if there’s a bike rental company servicing an area, there are likely to be appropriate bike trails there. Ask for them!

Biking Rules of the Road
Source: Fix.com

Staying Safe While City Biking

The good news is that cities are meant for cyclists! Many city-dwellers commute via bike, so large cities are usually well equipped with bike lanes and drivers are used to cyclists. But city riding can be daunting to visitors used to quieter streets. To stay safe, follow these tips:

  1. Look for bike paths whenever possible. Most cities have wonderful bike paths, located in the most scenic parts of the city. Use them, remembering to ride on the right-hand side in North America.
  2. Ride in designated bike lanes, but cycle in the flow of traffic. Never ride against traffic, or on sidewalks. Teach children that when they are on a bike, they follow the same rules of the road as cars.
  3. If possible, place parents on either side of child riders. Much of the time, cyclists will need to ride single file. Place kids in the middle, with one parent or other adult in the lead and another at the end.
  4. Educate yourself about any bike-free zones. It seems counterintuitive, but some city parks, such as parts of New York City’s Central Park, are closed to bikes. Know which areas are off-limits to cyclists ahead of time.
  5. Keep bikes safe while you’re away. Always carry a combination lock for bikes (usually available to rent) and lock them up when stopping to tour, sightsee, or eat a meal.

Hand Signals for Cyclists
Source: Fix.com

Best Cities for Cycling

Some cities are simply better for bike touring than others. Our favorites in North America include:

Washington, DC: It’s largely flat, making for easy cycling, and has many monuments and sights that are spread out, making for a lot of walking. In three hours on bikes, though, families can tour the top monuments in and around the National Mall, a tour that would take all day on foot.

New York City: NYC’s Battery Park has a wonderful bike trail that takes riders from the piers all the way to views of the Statue of Liberty. Only a few sections must be navigated in traffic. Alternatively, kids love biking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Vancouver, BC: Vancouver’s Stanley Park is so popular for biking, multiple cycle shops line its boundaries, and are always busy. Families can ride all the way around the park in an afternoon, following the path that hugs beautiful Coal Harbor. Let kids stop to play at playgrounds and beaches.

Nantucket, MA: It may not be a big city, but it is a large island to cover via the few hiking trails, and it is also simply too pretty to tour by car. Nantucket’s bike path system takes families to cute towns (get ice cream or lunch!) and even to the beach.

Enjoy exploring new cities on wheels! Your family will cover more ground, have more fun, and get more exercise, while getting up close and personal with city sights.

Ideal Cities For Cycling
Source: Fix.com

June 08, 2015

As parliamentarians and the Tokyo metropolitan government argue over who is going to pay for a new National Stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics which could could cost up to ¥300 billion (They need not fight as at the end of the day I'm paying for the new stadium as a taxpayer) it comes as no surprise that the necessity for many new sporting venues when existing facilities exist is being questioned. Tokyo billed itself as the compact Olympics, one in which all Olympic venues were to a mere eight kilometres from the athletes’ village but in the face of tight budgets that plan has quickly unravelled.

Proposed new Olympic Velodrome and BMX track now in doubt.

 Just today the Japanese and International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials released a statement indicating that they are close to a final venue plan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but an agreement for cycling which is acceptable to all parties is still has still not been reached.

International Cycling Union (UCI) President Brian Cookson is not happy with the proposed solution of relocating track cycling, mountain biking and BMX venues to Izu roughly 150km from Tokyo saying that it will detract from the Olympic experience of fans and competitors alike. Understanding the economic constraints Cookson conceded that he would fight for the BMX and mountain bike events to return to the city and is grudgingly prepared to accept track cycling in Izu on the condition that the existing venue undergoes extensive renovation ant its seating capacity is increased substantially from the existing level of just 1,500 seats.

Dream Island Mountain Biking course may also be relocated elsewhere.
Cycling is not the only sport to be moved from the promised 8km Olympic Zone. A proposed sailing marina near Tokyo Gate Bridge has been scrapped in favour of an existing facility near Wakasu and Badminton my be moved to Musashino in Western Tokyo. Other spots likely to move are fencng, taekwondo, wrestling and water polo.

Equestrian events will be moved from Dream Island to Baji Park, a venue from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics over 50 minutes from central Tokyo.  Dream Island is actually two largely underdeveloped islands in Tokyo bay which was to host mountain biking, equestrian and rowing events (in the channel between the two man made islands) but with two of those events tagged for relocation what will be done with that underutilised space?

Under the original plan the vast majority of Olympic events would
have been held within 8km of the Olympic village.

Over $1 billion of savings generated by the new venue plan will come from the scrapping the Youth Palza project which was planned to house both badminton and basketball, which will now be relocated to Saitama Super Arena, because hey in a country where 38% of the population will be 65 or older by 2055 who needs a Youth Plaza anyway?

So to summarise, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid promising a compact and sustainable Olympics was based on lies, deception and Hollywood accounting and moving venues from the proposed 8km radius of the Olympic Village has quite literally gutted the event.

Personally I would have liked to see Tokyo's bid emphasise the re-use of renovated facilities from the 1964 Olympics. Sure they wouldn't have the seating capacity or sexy appeal of a modern ¥300 billion stadium, but nothing says sustainability like recycling an entire city full of Olympic venues. A retro Olympics, I believe would be great for sport and set a standard for future Olympic cities based on something other than erecting expensive underutilised sporting facilities.

June 07, 2015

Last week Mikael Colville-Andersen revealed the results of the 2015 Copenhagenize Index of Bicycle Friendly Cities survey. It came as no surprise that the contenders for first place were friendly rivals Amsterdam and Copenhagen, with Copenhagen narrowly taking top spot and is was also not surprising that Tokyo which ranked 4th in 2011 and 12th in 2013 had disappeared from the index all together.

But wait, isn't Tokyo the city where almost everyone cycles? Where the neighbourhoods are compact and well serviced making the bicycle the perfect mode of transport? Doesn't cycling hold a 16% share within the 23 Wards of Tokyo and 14% for the greater Tokyo area? Doesn't the bicycle complement Tokyo's highly efficient and convenient public transport network? Doesn't Tokyo have female cyclists in abundance, a feat many other cities just can't replicate? Yes these points are all true, yet Tokyo fell from the index. Why?

I could tell you why, but instead I'll ask you: What has changed for cycling in Tokyo since the last Bike Index was compiled in 2013?

In two years absolutely NOTHING has changed, nothing at all. Two years with no advancement shows that Tokyo has no political will to become a world class cycle friendly city and that is shameful.

Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe has done nothing but pay lip service to cycling over that period, and none of his talk has been followed by action. In 2014 Masuzoe visited Mayor Boris Johnson in London after which he praised the Mayors efforts to promote cycling and provide safe infrastructure in the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games even while cyclists on London's roads were being killed by lorries at a criminal rate. Upon arrival back in Japan Masuzoe promised cycling infrastructure for the Olympics using London as a model at which point it became clearly obvious that the Governor had no commitment to cycling, Only commitment to the Olympic games.

Someone should buy the governor a ticket to Amsterdam or Copenhagen before he runs off to New York for inspiration. Oh wait, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government did that in 2014, inviting representatives from Bike New York to speak at a members only cycling summit and take part in an organised ride consisting of nothing but Lycra clad recreational cyclists. It seems if your city has implemented a successful bicycle sharing system and throws around words like "cycle superhighway" Tokyo wants to follow your example. The Metropolitan Government doesn't realise it has to do nothing to promote cycling as the Tokyo's citizens already cycle at much higher rates than cities like New York and London and that the solutions for Tokyo's cycling problems will come not from there, but from Northern European cities with high cycling populations.

Just last month the Governor revealed plans for 400km of safe cycling routes around the city, where "around the city" is defined as "around future Olympic venues" and safe cycling routes are defined as sharrows, painted bicycle lanes and sidewalks shared with pedestrians. This once again demonstrated absolutely no political will to improve the city for cyclists and cycling, rather its just another weak attempt to try and convince the world that Tokyo is putting in the effort to become cycle friendly. It most certainly is not.

Finally just this month harsh new penalties came into play for cyclists who disobey the rules of the road with police revealing a list of 14 confusing cycling misdemeanours if broken twice within three years could see a cyclist forced to attend a 3 hour cycle training course at their own expense or face a ¥50,000 fine.

So in the past two years Tokyo's Governor has made noises about improving infrastructure, has gone to all the wrong sources seeking advice, has promised "safe cycling routes", not safe cycling infrastructure in locations where they are not needed, and has overseen the implementation of harsh new penalties for cyclists. Is it any wonder Tokyo is no longer among the top 20 bicycle friendly cities?

Advanced cities around the globe know already that cycling brings a huge number of benefits, health, societal, environmental and economic. Denmark has actively developed cycling infrastructure because in their own words:

Cycling Saves Money. Cycling saves the municipalities of the Capital Region of Denmark roughly DKK 1.5 billion a year. Whats more cycling generates an additional DKK 1.5 billion in tax revenues for the state and municipalities.

The Capital Region of Denmark Regional Cycling Report, being a mere 22 pages long, states the case for better cycling infrastructure and outlines the advantages in language anyone can understand yet nobody in Tokyo is reading?  The report contains such gems as "Each time someone cycles 12,000 kilometres he or she reduces the average number of sick days by 1" and that the Capital Region experiences 1 million fewer sick days due to the effect of cycling. Cycling reduces traffic congestion which in turn saves time and as time is money DKK 0.8 billion is saved due to a decrease in congestion alone.

Just last week Prime Miniser promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26% yet did not reveal how he aimed to achieve that figure. Yet another verbal promise and lacking substance from a Japanese politician while The Danes, already active in the area, report that each time they increase cycling by 1 percentage point they see a 16,000 tonne reduction in greenhouse gasses, yet despite this there is no political will to promote cycling as transport in Japan.

It is plainly obvious that investments in cycling infrastructure, cheap in comparison to infrastructure for other vehicles, pay for themselves multiple times over with solid economic benefits, the only kind of benefits politicians care about. The research has been done, the facts can't be disputed, yet still we have no commitment from our leaders.

Seriously when among Japan's biggest exporters are Toyota, Nissan and Mazda can we really expect our government to promote cycling??

I've strayed a long way from the point, but in short cycling brings so many advantages to a city and it is the governors job to improve the city. Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe speaks often about cycling in the city but in the past two years has not backed up a single word with a positive action. Two years of inactivity from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is exactly why Tokyo no longer features among the top 20 bicycle friendly cities.

In the face of hard work and commitment of other cities that have a vision and are committed to positive change and improving the lives and welfare of their citizens Tokyo never stood a chance.

June 04, 2015

The first annual Cycle Hack Tokyo will be held in Minato-ku, Tokyo, from June 19th to the 21st.

Cycle Hack originated in Glasgow in 2104 and has quickly become an international event taking place in 35 cities around the world over the same weekend.  The event brings together a diverse range of people with different experiences and expertise to discuss the barriers that keep people from cycling to develop creative solutions that promote cycling as a sustainable mode of transport which benefits individuals and their communities.

Everyone has ideas of how to improve cycling in our towns and cities and Cycle Hack gives us a platform to develop an present those ideas by working with a likeminded team. Your idea may be a product, an event, a strategic piece of tactical urbanism, or maybe you have noticed a barrier to cycling you have no idea how to remove but would like to discuss it with others and come up with a solution. That is what Cycle Hack is all about.

Cycle Hack Tokyo will take place from June 19th to the 21st on the 15th floor of the International Shin-Akasaka Building East, 2-14-27 Akasaka, Minato-Ku, Tokyo. Participation is a mere Y1,000 which covers administrative costs and the use of the meeting space. Tickets must be purchased in advance here.

If you want to get involved, want to make a change in your city that improves conditions for cyclists, this is the first step towards having your voice heard. Please do join us.

This event is supported by the Bike Startup & Co.

May 31, 2015

「スケアード・ストレート」は1970年代アメリカで青少年犯罪を抑止する手段として生まれた考え方で、非行に走る恐れの有る青少年に刑務所を訪問させ、所内見学ツアーに参加させたり、苛酷な刑務所生活を受刑者の姿から直接学ばせたり、カウンセリングを受けさせたりするプログラムだ。多くの場合、青少年たちは受刑者と直接向き合う状況に置かれる。これは、彼らを文字通り脅して犯罪の人生から遠ざけるのが狙いだ。だが数十年間の研究の結果、そうしたプログラムは効果が無いばかりか、青少年に害を与えかねず、実際に参加者の再犯率が上昇した事が明らかになっている。 1997年に米連邦議会に提出された一本のレポートでは500以上の犯罪予防手法が評価されているが、その中でスケアード・ストレート方式の各種プログラムは「有効ではない」に分類されていた。こうした証拠にも関わらず、類似のプログラムは今日でも世界中で実施されている。






 1. 自転車は車道[が原則、歩道は例外]
 2. 車道では左側を通行
 3. 歩道では歩行者優先[で、自転車は車道寄りを徐行](これは1番目のルールと矛盾する)
 4. 安全ルールを守る(つまりこのリストにはルールが5つ以上有るという事だ)
 5. [子供は]ヘルメットを着用




司会者はこの冒頭で笑い声が起こった事を機と捉え、子供たちを厳しく叱った。「自転車の安全はとても大切な事です。もし君たち自身や家族が似たような状況に置かれたらと考えてみましょう。これでもう笑い事じゃないと分かりましたね?」 だが、参加している子供たちの大半にとっては、これはサーカスの同類で、100%完全にエンターテインメントなのだ。





追い打ちを掛けるように司会者は生徒たち(誰一人免許が取れる年齢には達していないが)に死角の説明を始めた。自転車が交差点に進入した地点はドライバーから物理的に見えなかった、だから事故は避けられなかったのだと。避けられない? 何を言ってるんだ? これには堪忍袋の緒が切れそうになった。

ドライバーが交差点に進入する前に特に用心していれば事故は防げたのでは、といった話が一度も出て来ないまま、ドライバーは一切の責任から解放されてしまった。何故なら「自転車が何もかも悪い」からだ。警察が許容している歩道上の通行や、青信号での交差点の横断でさえ「間違い」なのである。厳格責任(strict liability)、つまり、大きく重い乗り物の操縦者が、軽く脆弱な道路利用者の安全について責任を負うという概念は一切触れられなかった。ドライバーは死角を生む車体構造の被害者であり、自転車利用者が不注意だった所為で撥ねてしまった、という訳だ。





スケアード・ストレート方式の交通安全教育に関する学術研究は2015年5月31日現在、国内の論文データベースを横断検索できるCiNii Articlesで調べる限り、僅か1件だ。この研究(http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/40019955956)は実験に参加した生徒の安全運転の知識や意志をアンケートで評価したもので、紙の上では一定の効果を実証しているものの、実際の運転行動に改善が有ったかどうかや事故率が低下したかどうかについては明らかにしていない。






Byron Kidd氏はこの記事で、安全の為という善意に隠れて見えにくい、意識の書き換えという陰の側面を指摘する事で、「生徒たちにウケが良い」といった安直な理由でスタント実演に頼る日本社会に疑問を投げ掛けているのである。

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

May 24, 2015

"Scared Straight" is a concept developed in the United States in the 1970's as a measure to deter juvenile crime by forcing "at risk" youth to visit prisons where they partake in tours, learn about harsh prison life directly from inmates and receive counselling. Often the youth are placed in in-your-face confrontational situations with inmates with the aim of literally scaring them out of a life of crime. But decades of research have revealed that such programs are not only ineffective but may also harm youth, and actually increase recidivism rates among participants. A report presented to US Congress in 1997 evaluated over 500 crime prevention methods and placed Scared Straight programs in the "what does not work" category. Despite this evidence such programs are still in use around the world today.

Yes even here in Japan, the concept of being "Scared Straight" has taken hold, but in a rather different way. In Japan we aim to scare our children into cycling safely by exposing them to a series of simulated accidents between bicycles, pedestrians trucks and cars at events hosted by local Junior Highschool, and I was lucky enough to be invited to view one for the first time over the weekend.

I've always had a negative view of the Scared Straight cycling safety programs based on my own experience as a child in which if I saw stuntmen simulating bicycle accidents as school in the morning I'd be at the park with my friends doing the very same in the afternoon, because when you're 12 stuntmen are cool and bicycle safety is a drag.  But I was determined to attend this event with an open mind, leaving all my preconceptions behind I set out to be educated.

Upon entering school grounds I was immediately given a handout, the first half of which listed a series of high profile accidents in which cyclists have injured and even killed pedestrians, including an incident in 2013 where the mother of a junior ighschool boy was forced to pay almost $1 million in compensation to the family of the victim injured by her son. This individual accident has become the boogieman with which the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, schools, lawyers and insurance salesmen have been using to scare everyone in the community into purchasing cycling insurance. Not a single piece of bicycle safety literature, nor poster goes out without making a mention to this tragic high profile case. Oddly no cases of motor vehicles killing cyclists or pedestrians was mentioned in the literature, nor was there a table listing fatalities caused by cyclists against fatalities caused by motor vehicles which would show cycling and cyclists are much safer than motorists. No, this event was about bicycle safety which in no way involves cars right?

I took some deep breaths and reminded myself I was here to learn, not pass judgement, well at least not until the spectacle was over.

Proceedings began with a speech by a representative of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department who basically went over the material in the handout which aside from scary stories about dangerous cyclists killing pedestrians included some road accident statistics and a quick rundown of what the police department consider the 5 most important rules of cycling:

  1. Always cycle on the road 
  2. Always cycle on the left hand side of the road
  3. When cycling on the sidewalk pedestrians have right of way (this contradicts the 1st rule)
  4. Obey all the rules (which means this list is more than 5 rules)
  5. Wear a helmet

When the officer stressed to this group of 12 to 15 year olds that they should cycle on the road I wanted to call out from the back of the crowd "Do you really believe our roads are safe enough for that?" But simply rolled my eyes and held my tongue. During his talk in which he noted that there had been a drastic decrease in traffic deaths the officer almost dislocated his shoulder patting himself on the back, but I wanted to ask if creative book keeping had not done more to reduce the numbers as victims of traffic deaths who expire more than 24 hours after an accident aren't recorded as road deaths. But I was not there to judge.

By the end of his talk the crowd was getting restless, they were here to see the action, bring on the gladiators and let the show begin.

When the car travelling at 40km/h hit a stationary bicycle with a dummy in the child seat it made a frighteningly loud sound and sent the dummy spinning through the air. This bought giggles from the children and gasps from the parents gathered. Many shocked parents averted their eyes, one mother even decided at this point it was all too much for her and went home. Maybe there is something in this I thought as the adult motorists in the crowd really do have no idea the damage a vehicle travelling at what many consider low speed it does them good to see what could be the consequences of their actions behind the wheel.

Presenters used this opening as an opportunity to chastise the children for laughing, driving home that cycling safety was a serious matter and that they should think of themselves or their family in a similar situation. Not so funny now is it? But for most of the children in attendance this was akin to the circus, 100% pure entertainment.

Following this two cyclists holding umbrellas collided. Entertaining, but hardly educational my cynical self noted. But after this the presenters demonstrated the difference in stopping difference between braking with two hands rather than just one which they emphasised is even greater in wet conditions. Seeing stopping distance for real, not as simply some lines and measurements on paper is much easier for people to relate to I admitted, thinking maybe this event had some merit after all.

A later demonstration involved 4 cyclists each doing something considered dangerous. One cycling with headphones, one cycling on the wrong side of the road, the two others I don't remember. As the cyclists collided with the rider coming in the wrong direction the entire group was struck by a car from behind. Students were asked to identify the 4 things the cyclists were doing wrong. I wanted to identify the fifth, that the driver of the car was not paying due attention to the environment around them and should be driving more safely in the presence of cyclists and pedestrians, but this was a bicycle safety event I reminded myself while biting my tongue.

Keeping myself in check I watched the remainder of the show, but was almost unable to contain my frustration at one point. The example consisted of a cyclist riding along the sidewalk in a straight line, crossing a pedestrian crossing with a green light before being struck by a left turning vehicle. What was the cyclist doing wrong in this case the students were asked. "The cyclist was on the sidewalk", said one despite sidewalk cycling being condoned in the police departments coveted 5 rules. "The cyclist should have slowed down before entering the crossing", said another. "The cyclist should have paid more attention" said a third. "The cyclist should get off and push their bicycle over the crossing" observed another incorrectly.

It was by this point in the training I knew the brainwashing was complete, there were two parties involved in the accident yet by now the students could only see the wrong doing of the cyclist despite the elephant in the room, or in this case the 4000 pound car in the crosswalk. The victory for motorists was complete.

Adding insult to injury the presenters explained to the students (none of whom are old enough to drive themselves) the concept of a blind spot, and that at the point when the cyclist entered the intersection the driver was physically unable to see the cyclist and hence the accident was unavoidable. Unavoidable? WTF? I almost popped a seam.

At no point was it discussed if the motorist could have taken extra precautions to avoid an accident before entering the intersection, the driver was absolved of all blame because the cyclist was doing everything wrong .. cycling on the sidewalk, which the police condone, and crossing an intersection on a green light.  The concept of strict liability in which the larger heavier road user is responsible for the safety of the lighter more venerable ones was not mentioned at all. The motorist was a victim of poor car design resulting in a blind spot, and struck the cyclist as it was the cyclist who was not taking due care. I wanted to scream!

So by the end of the event my opinion of Scared Straight cycling safety campaigns was not changed. Speaking with students afterwards revealed they were all impressed by he stunts, yet few had leaned any lessons of about bicycle safety. It was as I suspected, a circus, but even going into this with a preconceived opinion I was in no way prepared for how the the actions of the motorist in each of the simulated accidents was in no way questioned. The speed at which young minds were moulded to consider the motor vehicle blameless, or at the very least totally completely ignored as a factor contributing to each accident scenario was astounding. It certainly was educational for me to attend, but for all the wrong reasons.

May 09, 2015

In late April the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced a plan to establish 400 kilometres of recommended bicycle routes around the city before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Targeting 7 areas the plan aims to provide a continuous network of safe cycling routes, but there have been little details forthcoming as to what from these "safe cycling routes" will take.

Surprising to many is the fact that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government regulates just 2,000 km of roads in the capital with the remaining 20,000 km being regulated by municipal governments such as wards, cities and towns. In the past this has hampered the development of continuous linked bicycle routes as there has traditionally been little co-ordination between the responsible parties. A central part of the plan announced last month was that the National Government, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Local Governments would work together to establish a network that effectively ignores political boundaries and provides continuous service to cyclists.

But given the perceived lack of space that planners lament when discussing the proposed implementation of separated cycling lanes it is likely that Tokyo's "safe cycling routes" will be nothing more than a combination of 1 meter wide painted roadside lanes, sharrows (which are little more than direction indicators), and shared pedestrian and cycling paths (otherwise known as sidewalks). We must remember that this is a plan for "safe cycling routes" not a blueprint for protected bicycle lanes. In short, it's a rather disappointing effort.

Also disappointing is that this plan is focused entirely around the Olympics and offers very little value to the residents of Tokyo who, we must not forget, will ultimately be footing the bill.  The plan targets 7 areas surrounding Olympic venues and major tourist areas including Asakusa and the Tokyo Sky Tree, completely ignoring major stations, business and shopping districts, around the city ultimately limiting the networks usefulness to a short period while the Olympics are actually taking place.

It is overly obvious that little research has gone into creating a cycling network for the city. Nobody was out on the streets counting cyclist, mapping dangerous areas, or surveying cyclists needs. Research, that our Olympic planners have chose to ignore, shows that central areas of the city, the areas of these proposed safe cycling routes, have much lower cyclist numbers than surrounding areas and that pouring millions into infrastructure in these areas totally ignores the areas that could benefit from safe cycling infrastructure. Tokyo taxpayers should not stand for this inappropriate us of their money.

Cycling modal share by ward, shows that peripheral wards cycle more.
Outlying wards is where cycling infrastructure us needed.

Some may say "build it and they will come", but I would prefer cycling infrastructure is built where there is a need first.

Sadly this is purely a plan for the sake of the Olympics, completely detached from the reality of cycling in the city, and for that it is worthy of absolutely no praise at all.

The Olympics have given cycling advocates in Japan a unique opportunity to have cycling discussed at high levels of government, unfortunately it seems that those in positions of power can not see beyond the Olympics. They have no knowledge of the great benefits, financial, health and environmental that cycling can bring not only cyclists, but to the city itself, they're blinkered by the very event that put cycling on their radar.

As a cycling advocate I've put great effort into increasing public awareness about the benefits of cycling, and have worked hard to increase cyclist numbers in Tokyo, but in Japan where the majority of the public already understand the benefits and importance of the bicycle as a part of everyday transport I now realise that my efforts have been misguided. What Japan really needs is for cycling advocates to focus on educating politicians, officials, and those in positions able to affect change as to the benefits of everyday cycling so they can make informed decisions for the future.

Many decision makers see cycling infrastructure as little more than a frivolous waste of money catering for a fringe group whereas research from the Netherlands and Denmark concludes that a small investment in cycling infrastructure more than pays for itself by promoting healthy lifestyles that reduce a populations dependence on health care, increases worker productivity, and even results in a lower number of sick days taken by employees.

Each person on a bicycle is not only saving the city money, but contributing to the local economy by shopping close to home. Each person on a bicycle is reducing the cities total greenhouse gas footprint. Each person on a bicycle is reducing congestion on our roads, and public transportation network. Each person on a bicycle is an important part of the community which they travel through, not just a mere observer.

Moving ahead I will be refocusing my efforts from promoting cycling to a public that already understands its benefits, to making those benefits known to policy makers and people who are in a position to make a change.

Through my research, observations, and almost 20 years of cycling the streets of Tokyo I have built a vast collection of knowledge about cycling and cyclists in this great city and wish to share this knowledge with people who can use it to make a difference and am always available for discussions or to make presentations on the topic. Please don't hesitate to contact me.

April 19, 2015

Over the course of six months, while his girlfriend interned in a company in Tokyo, young graphic artist Florent Chavouet wandered the streets with a pouch full of coloured pencils and a sketchpad visiting many of its most well known and even some lesser known neighbourhoods sketching scened of everyday life in the city.

This 208 page book is filled cover to cover with beautiful hand drawn pictures from his journeys. The artist captures more than street scenes and architecture paying particular attention to smaller details such as posters, packaging and what many of us living in Japan consider to be most uninteresting everyday objects which when looked at through the eyes of a visitor are fascinating parts of Japanese life.

 Chavouet is also a wonderful people watcher, his sketches capture the various fashions of each district in the city, from elegantly dressed ladies in Ginza to the street styles of Shibuya and Shimokitazawa. His drawings of people are filled with movement and actions, these people were actually doing things hen sketched which he captures in the smallest of details. Handwritten comments often accompany pictures letting you know just what was going on in the scene at the time, or why a particular sticker on a lamp post caught the artists attention.

I love that in each area he visits the artist has paid particular attention to the Koban, or police boxes that can be found all over the city as he showed me something I've not noticed in almost 20 years of living here. He showed me that the architecture of police boxes varies greatly around the city. You'd think these essential public facilities would all adhere to a particular style to cut costs but the truth is there are an amazing number of different styles of Koban. In addition to this more than one page is dedicated to capturing the antics of the local constabulary, including random bicycle registration checks.

Taxis, politicians, laundromats, train stations, garbage bins, vending machines, parks, bicycles, people, stamps, power lines, point cards, cafes, advertising, absolutely anything you can imagine about Tokyo is captured in this book. The artists attention to detail is truly amazing and he even treats us to a detailed look at his bicycle.

Detailed hand drawn maps abound, and the fact that they re slightly dated drives home the point that Tokyo is an city that is undergoing continual change.

When this book arrived my daughters studied the most minute details of every single page from cover to cover, unable to put it down for hours. Over the course of a month I would flip through the book revisiting scenes I'd viewed before always finding something I overlooked on the last viewing, the details are truly amazing.

If you love Tokyo as I do then I'd highly recommend Tokyo on Foot.

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