Large cargo bikes really don't fit in Japan so Japanese manufacturers are experimenting with a variety of interesting designs for small wheel cargo bikes. Check them out here...
Need a new commuter bike? Maybe not, because with a few cheap and easy modifications you can convert your mountain bike into a lighter faster commuter bicycle. Here's how ...
Strict government regulations and inflexible insurance rules effectively force companies in Japan to ban their employees from cycling to work. It's time for a change.
We're excited that Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Olympic Games! Read on to learn what we know of the cycling events and facilities planned for Tokyo.
Tokyo, its better by bike. Don't simply witness Tokyo through the window of a bus or a train, take a bicycle tour and get out there amongst the action.
Climbing Mt Fuji by bicycle is a ride you have to put on your bucket list. The Pro's do it every year at the Tour of Japan, but us mortals can do it anytime we like.
April 19, 2014
April 15, 2014
Cycling employees are healthy employees who take less sick days not only due to the health benefits of cycling itself but also from not picking up a cold, flu or virus while sharing public transport with thousands of unwell travellers, particularly in the winter where trains are nothing but mobile disease dispensers. Sick employees can be bad for business not only due to the time they take from work, but also because there is a risk they will pass on a virus to fellow workers and before you know it half the office is off sick. Cycling employees are not only healthy themselves, but promote a healthier workplace resulting in fewer sick days among all employees.
Mentally bicycle commuters are less stressed than their public transport taking and driving co-workers. Personally I find that cycling to and from work gives me a clear buffer between home time and work time whereas when I take public transport I'm on work time from the moment I step out the door. For me the very act of cycling is enjoyable and puts me in a positive frame of mind, and having to concentrate on the cars, cyclist and pedestrians around me gives me less time to stress about what awaits me at work when I arrive or the following day. When taking the train, with little else to occupy my mind, I find myself thinking about work, worrying about deadlines and stressing about meetings, that can't be healthy. For the duration of the commute a cyclists mind freed from the worries of work making them happier, less stressed and ultimately more productive.
Bicycle commuters are more punctual. Bicycle commuters aren't restrained by traffic jams, nor are they affected by train delays meaning they arrive at work on time regardless of the condition of the transport networks their co-workers rely upon. Recently in the aftermath of a typhoon in Tokyo train services were delayed for an entire day. By cycling to work I arrived on time while co-workers were filing in up to 4 or 5 hours late due to transport delays. I arrived with a smile on my face and put in a solid days work (achieving even more without constant interruptions!), while colleagues arrive late, tired and in terrible moods having spent the last 4 hours battling over crowded public transport. What about mechanical delays you may ask? A well maintained bicycle with puncture proof tyres is a lot more reliable than both traffic and weather forecasts!
While we don't want to work ourselves to death there are times we must work late, or irregular hours. In Japan where the train service stops between 12:30am and 5:00am (roughly) allowing employees to cycle to work means we can come to and from work during the hours when public transport is not operating if needed, without the expense of providing a taxi or car.
Finally, the cost of providing parking for employees who drive or shuttle buses for employees who rely upon public transport can be immense. Although bicycle commuters will need facilities of their own the cost is minuscule compared to that of providing adequate parking facilities or shuttle bus services for all employees.
Not all of the benefits of bicycle commuting are easily measured financially, but it should be plainly obvious that happy, healthy, stress free bicycle commuting employees are more productive and will have a positive impact not only on profits, but will also contribute to a healthier and happier workplace.
Of course these benefits do not come to businesses without a price, as bicycle commuters will require, even demand, facilities which we will investigate in the next article on this topic.
April 10, 2014
In Tokyo one of the biggest, busiest and most populated metropolises in the world, cycling holds a respectable 16% modal share yet cycling infrastructure is severely lacking and cycling lanes barely exist. In addition to this cycling laws are poorly understood by the public and inconsistently enforced by the police. In short cycling should be a disaster in this city yet it thrives with none of the infrastructure of world leading European countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark.
I've written before about the ingredients that when mixed together create an environment where cycling thrives without planning and infrastructure. The compact neighbourhoods, the expense and inconvenience of private car ownership, the exceptional public transport, the lax enforcement of cycling laws, these all contribute to high cyclist numbers in Tokyo and around Japan.
But the biggest factor in making cycling work in Japan is the attitude of the Japanese people.
Drivers in Tokyo are used to sharing narrow roads with both cyclists and pedestrians as many smaller streets lack even sidewalks. In addition to this most drivers also cycle which means they drive around cyclists as they'd expect other motorists to drive around them. Cyclists are, of course, also pedestrians and thus when cycling on the sidewalks they generally show respect for fellow cyclists and pedestrians. Watching cars, cyclists and pedestrians interact in Japanese cities may appear to be complete anarchy, but it is a polite form of anarchy in which most people subconsciously strive not to have a negative impact on the people around them.
Without meaning to overgeneralise (and I am) it is the Japanese peoples attitude of mutual respect and flexibility when it comes to sharing spaces which makes cycling work here despite the lack of infrastructure. Imagine for a moment every Japanese person was suddenly a New Yorker, cycling would become extinct overnight!
So while Japan has no official Nice Way Code campaign, each individual has their own internal code of conduct, based on sharing the road and tolerance for each other, because you can't cycle in a city with 14 million others without exercising a little patience. This highlights a startling cultural difference, and teaches us that cycling initiatives that work well in one country will not necessarily be accepted in another.
When seeking ideas to improve conditions for cyclists in your area it is worth remembering that what works in one city or country may not necessarily work in another. Unfortunately in the case of the Nice Way Code the Japanese notion of "Wa", harmony and keeping the peace, did not translate well into the Scottish environment, its a shame.
April 08, 2014
Love or hate sidewalk cycling in Japan, you have to understand that given the lack of cycling lanes it is the acceptance of sidewalk cycling which has allowed cyclists numbers to remain so high in Japan and that until infrastructure is improved sidewalk cyclists will not go away.
I recently wrote a more detailed piece on sidewalk cycling in Japan for Metropolis Magazine here in Tokyo entitled "Sidewalk Circus: The bustling walkways of Tokyo are no places for cyclists - or are they?" and encourage you to take the time to read it online.
March 19, 2014
This isn't the first time we've seen UNIQLO team up with well known bicycle brands on t-shirt designs. In the past they have collaborated with Giant, Specialized, Jamis and Pinarello among others. So if your inner 10 year old demands all articles of clothing you wear boldly announce your most loved hobbies then get yourself down to a UNIQLO store right now. Or if you're more like me, your more adult and budget minded self can suppress your inner 10 year old another few weeks until the price drop after which you can buy two!
While you're there why not pick up some super hero themed underpants as well? Girls love those.
March 18, 2014
|Road Legal Electric-Assist Bicycle|
The Tokyo Bureau of Citizens and Cultural Affairs purchased 5 different types of the electric power-assisted bikes, ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 yen, for testing. They sourced the bicycles from both highly recommended online retailers, and retailers who had received a high number of consumer complaints. Of those tested one was equipped with a throttle in a clear violation of the road traffic act and three of the five continued running after the rider had stopped pedalling. More alarmingly was that under Japanese regulations power assisted bicycle motors are designed to stop running once the rider reaches 24 kilometres per hour, but four out of the five bicycles tested continued to accelerate to even higher speeds.
Personally I've noticed an increase of throttle controlled electric bicycles in the Higashi Shinjuku and Shin Okubo districts near my office. Such a sharp increase that I thought maybe the law had been changed to make such bicycles legal. I've seen these bicycle in use within full view of police officers none of whom have so much as even warned the cyclist. If officials don't act soon their use will become commonplace and the police will lose the power to act as they have in so many other areas of Japanese cycling regulation.
Bicycle buyers are advised to check safety inspection marks including the Traffic Safety mark from the Japan Traffic Management Technology Association, Bicycle Association Approved mark from the Bicycle Association of Japan and the Safe Goods mark of the Consumer Product Safety Association.
March 17, 2014
|Bicycle Lane in Adachi-ku, Tokyo.|
With no physical barrier between the bicycle lane and sidewalk, no education, and no policing, pedestrians and cyclists alike were oblivious to the bicycle lane. Despite the markings pedestrians still walked wherever they pleased leaving cyclists with no option but to weave in and out often veering into the pedestrian only zone. Despite planners best intentions posting signs and changing the colour of the sidewalk surface did nothing to separate cyclists and pedestrians. Business as usual.
This chaos continued for years after the development was completed, it seemed that planners had given up the battle.
Upon visiting Nishi Arai last weekend I was surprised to see that a single simple improvement had been made to the lane which saw the bicycle lane almost entirely pedestrian free. Between the lane and pedestrian area posts had been erected at roughly 1.5m intervals. The bright blue posts, sport reflectors and markings pointing out the respective places for cyclists and pedestrians. The posts themselves are made from a soft rubber like material and when struck they bend and wobble rather than staying rigid.
During my 500m walk beside the bicycle lane I observed just one woman walking obliviously in the lane, which she did for the entire 500m despite me remarking to my wife, numerous times, loud enough for the women to hear that "Some people still don't realise that's a bicycle lane!".
|Posts to separate cyclists and pedestrians.|
Another problem arose at intersections where the coloured tiles of the bicycle lane and the posts suddenly stopped. It was at intersections where pedestrians and cyclists were forced to mix again quite dangerously as cyclists were passing through the intersections at higher speeds than they would had they been cycling amongspedestrians.
Despite the problems the simple addition of posts effectively separated pedestrians from cyclists on a sidewalk where signs, markings and different coloured road surfaces had been proven a failure by years of demonstrated misuse.
Why not just widen the roads and provide on road bicycle lanes you may ask? The practise of sidewalk cycling is so widespread in Japan it has become part of the culture, as is the belief that cycling the sidewalks is safer than cycling the roads. Japanese cyclists include children, the elderly and parents carrying multiple children on their bicycles none of whom are keen on sharing the road with fast moving, heavy motor vehicles with nothing but a stripe of blue paint for protection.
In addition to this sidewalk lanes are convenient for shoppers as they're two way while on road bicycle lanes are typically one way.
Imagine you're on a one way bicycle lane and need to cycle back to a store 50m behind you, its one way so you can't double back. First you have to cycle down to the next intersection (away from your destination), wait at some traffic lights and cross the road. Then you'll cycle back in the direction of the store you want to visit, but you'll have to cycle past it to reach an intersection where you can cross the road again. Having crossed the road you can finally cycle on towards the store. You've done a big circle, wasting a lot of time in dong so.
On a two way sidewalk lane you simply turn around and cycle back. Easy.
Most people in Japan use their bicycle not for travelling long distances from point A to point B, but for pottering around the neighbourhood stopping by the bakery before dropping into the fishmongers then dropping off some clothing at the dry cleaners. A 10km one way roadside bicycle lane from the suburbs to the city is of little practical use to 99% of Japanese cyclists.
I believe it is important when considering cycling infrastructure to not simply accept what works well in other cities will work well in yours. Certainly there are best practises to adhere to but there is also a need to examine the culture, and the patterns of bicycle use and design infrastructure that complements that. Remember that cycling infrastructure is for people and you must understand how people use their bicycles before you can design infrastructure that they will gain the most benefit from.
Do not blindly accept that what works elsewhere will work in your city. Cities, cultures and people are unique and the problems they face may require unique, customised, solutions. Keep this in mind when considering cycling infrastructure, build it for your people.
March 05, 2014
The most recent expansion of the ever evolving Bike Commuter Cabal Empire is a new blog launched in March, 2014 and I am humbled to have had my story "Tokyo, Japan: Omnipresent Cycling in the Big City" chosen as the first ever Bike Commuter Cabal feature story.
Members of the Cabal come from all walks of life from people who commute to work, school, the store or the pub to people who train, race and tour the globe. Members are students, parents, activists, writers, janitors, designers, some wear helmets and Lycra, others don't, but who cares? We all love cycling and it is the diversity of real people with real experiences and stories that make the Bike Commuter Cabal such a unique and interesting community.
So if you're a bicycle commuter, a bicycle lover, or someone who is keen to get started then hook up with the Bike Commuter Cabal in one or all of its many forms as I can honestly say it has been without a doubt the most friendly, informative and welcoming group of people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and working with on the Internet.