January 01, 2012

How Costco is killing Japanese cycling culture


Its true, Costco, Ikea and other large retailers are slowly eroding the usefulness of the bicycle in Japan as they promote a car centric approach to shopping.

In Japan large stores have historically tended to cluster around highly trafficked railway stations close to major population centres rather than along heavily trafficked highways out in the sticks.  Companies such as Costco and Ikea however set up business in the most inconvenient of locations for Japan's massive base of city dwelling, cycling shoppers, on large, cheap plots of land, far from stations and population centres making them largely inaccessible by bicycle. In some locations the line for parking stretches over many kilometres on public roads, creating even further congestion, not to mention polluting the air with all those idling engines.  How is this healthy for Japan?

Both Ikea and Costco offer home delivery, should an adventurous cyclist or user of public transport make the trek to one of their stores, but judging by the size of their car parks there is no mistake who their target market is.

To be fair I should point out that more and more often large Japanese owned shopping malls such as Aeon are popping up in all manner of sparsely populated locations essentially inaccessible by bicycle. Surely this is an aspect of western culture we should not mimic.

I sincerely hope this trend towards car centric shopping begins to fade here in Japan, before it negates the convenience of the bicycle completely.

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