Tokyo's quake-inspired bicycle boom

Tokyo commuters turn to bicycles after last year's earthquake transport chaos, with up to five times more cyclists on the streets.



What is wrong with this picture?

This morning I read an article on the Yomiuri website about local government efforts to reduce bicycle accidents at intersections by erecting signs urging cyclists to stop.

I commented on twitter that it is a nice gesture, but that I'd like to see a national standard as too many prefectures around Japan are making up their own individual cycling policies with no overriding direction.

Afterwards I re-visited the article and noticed the accompanying picture.  Can you see what is wrong?

Thats right, the cyclist in the picture is on on the wrong side of the road, if there were traffic on the road they would be cycling into it. Salmoning, if you will.

So what is the photo telling us?  That it's safe to ride on the wrong side of the road as long as we stop at the intersection and look both ways?

Sorry folks, this is a bicycle safety fail.


Three types of Japanese bicycle thieves

We've all heard the story "I left my bicycle unlocked at the station and when I returned it was still there. Isn't Japan a wonderful country." I've heard the stories, I've even left the key in our mama-chari overnight only to find it right where I left it the following morning.  While acts of bicycle theft are low in Japan, bicycle theft is far from non existent.

So who are Japan's bicycle thieves?

Organised bicycle thieves
Usually individuals rather than gangs, these cretin target bicycles that have a high resale value including expensive road, mountain and Piste bicycles.  They're not adverse to breaking a lock, or dismantling public property in order to capture their prey.  These thieves will often re-sell the stolen bicycle via an Internet auction site.  In one recent case a cyclist tracked down his stolen bicycle to a seller on an Internet auction site and alerted the police who arranged to meet and subsequently arrest the thief.  In questioning it arose that this individual bicycle thief had stolen and resold over 1500 bicycles over his career.

Disorganised bicycle thieves
Opportunistic high school students who find an unlocked bicycle in front of the station or convenience store, take it for an afternoon joyride and abandon it when the day is done.  Not criminal enough to risk breaking a lock they see an unlocked bicycle and act on impulse without thinking of the consequence of their crime.

Really disorganised bicycle thieves
Drunk salary men, sometimes I call them accidental bicycle thieves.  After a few too many drinks with his workmates the drunk salary man finds himself in the parking lot of his home station staring upon row after row of bicycles. He spots what he thinks is his bicycle, fumbles with his key in the lock only to discover that it won't unlock.  Eager to get home and sleep it off he applies some force to, and subsequently breaks, the common horseshoe lock.  Deed done he wobbles his way home. Imagine his surprise the following morning. No damage done he'll park the stolen bicycle back in the lot and pick up his own when he returns home in a more sober state.

Of course less inebriated late night revellers who find themselves stuck after the last trains have stopped running will often resort to "borrowing" a bicycle to get themselves home.  The less malicious will choose one that looks to be abandoned, thus justifying the crime somewhat in their own minds.

So while the stories of unlocked bicycles remaining in place for days are true, if you have an expensive looking bicycle, or leave it parked around the station at night then you're risking having it stolen if it is not securely locked.



Kyoto re-paints bicycle lanes brown.

The highly traditional Japanese city of Kyoto has re-painted all of its formerly blue bicycle lanes to brown after locals complained that the blue was too bright and clashed with the traditional nature of the ancient city.


While bright blue is the color recommended for bicycle lanes nationally by the National Police Agency, it is well known that businesses such as convenience stores and fast food outlets that operate under company colors around Japan do in-fact subdue their the colors of their outdoor advertising in Kyoto in order to maintain the traditional image of the city.

While the brown color does fit more closely with the aesthetics of the  city, it is obviously not as visible as a bright blue bicycle lane, but urban planners realise the need to cater for the needs of cyclists while maintaining the city image.

What do you think of this decision to camouflage bicycle lanes?



Cyclists issued warnings in Tokyo's first monthly bicycle commuter crackdown

On February 10, 2012 the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department staged the first, of what is to become a monthly crackdown on lawless cyclists.

Police were operating in a total of 110 locations during peak commuter times, stopping cyclists for such violations as cycling with headphones, carrying passengers, using mobile phones while cycling and disobeying traffic rules.

In just one hour at an intersection in Nakano-ku 20 police officers issued warning cards to 35 people.  Of those 27 were cycling with headphones, while 4 were warned for running red lights. Details of the remaining 4 ticketed cyclists were not known.

Tokyo cyclists are reminded that these crackdowns are going to occur on the 10th of each month.  In the event that the 10th falls on  weekend police will be checking cyclists on the prior Friday.

I will be posting reminders on twitter urging cyclists to take care around these dates.

Source: NHK



Tokyo Bicycle Commuters Beware! Police cracking down on the 10th of each month.

I found this story just now and must share it with all my Tokyo cycling brethren.

Beginning today the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department will be cracking down on commuter cyclists on the 10th of each month.  During regular commuting hours police will be out on the street watching cyclists closely for traffic rule violations.  The police will be stopping cyclists to check their registration, checking that fixies have brakes, ensuring we have headlights etc. and to hand out bicycle safety brochures.

Interestingly, in the event that the 10th falls on a weekend police will be out in force on the Friday beforehand.

So fellow commuters, I know we all bend the rules occasionally, but be careful on the 10th of each month because they're out to get us!

You can read the article in Japanese here.



New "Bicycle Navi" road markings remind Japanese cyclists which way to go.

This new "Bicycle Navi" mark began popping up in Edogawa-ku, Tokyo on Monday.

Not strictly a bicycle lane it is rather a reminder to cyclists to ride with the flow of traffic, not against it. Riding against the flow of traffic will earn you a 50,000 yen fine or 3 months imprisonment.

FNN News had a 4 minute long report about the new markings on TV last night.  You can view video of that report here.

I believe it is a sad state of affairs that you have to remind grown adults to ride with the flow of traffic. Few things annoy me more than having to swerve wide into traffic to avoid a moron coming towards me on the wrong side of the road. Keep left people.


Matching gloves and bicycle frame

Shot in Tokyo this morning. A woman cycling with matching winter gloves and bicycle frame.

This morning was the coldest of the year in Tokyo, but despite this everyone was cycling as per usual.



Messengers is a Japanese movie released in 1999 staring SMAP's Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Naoko Ijima.

Naomi Shimizu is a young career woman working for a prestigious fashion house. That is until one day the company declares bankruptcy. Accustomed to living in luxury she tries to make a run for it with the last remaining company asset, a red Alpha Romeo sports car. Unfortunately she recklessly collides with an bicycle messenger. Lacking any funds to pay for a settlement, the injured messenger convinces her to work as a bicycle messenger in his place until his injuries heal.

A little action, comedy and romance make this quite an enjoyable film even for those of us who aren't SMAP fans.

I remember in the wake of this film having groups of school children shout "Messenger!" at me on my morning commute, and that the bicycle stores make a killing selling replicas of the TREK bicycle Tsuyoshi's character rode in the movie.

Its good fun, and entertaining enough for me to own the DVD.  I must dig it out and watch it with the kids this weekend.