Uphill Challenge on Mt Fuji

This weekend myself and two friends, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Greg McNevin will attempt a climb of Mt Fuji to raise money for Sightsavers charity. Sightsavers work to eliminate avoidable blindness in the developing world. We're be most grateful if you could contribute even a couple of dollars, to help the charity and help spur us on to the summit of Fuji ! You can donate safely and easily via this Just Giving link, many thanks.


Pedal Asia Podcast Episode 3 and a half

This is a short little half episode that doesnt warrent a full new episode title but we just wanted to let everyone know we are still alive and kicking.  Things have been very hectic for both of us lately but what we do have though is a great little audio piece by Byron from the Suginami Bicycle Festival from Tokyo. Enjoy and listen out for a full episode soon.

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Tokyo cyclists (may) face requirement to attach number plates to bikes

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is considering requiring cyclists to attach to their bikes a large plate indicating their registration numbers.

My bicycle registration sticker.
The plan is part of the metropolitan government's efforts to prevent cyclists from illegally parking and abandoning their bicycles on streets and to decrease the number of cases in which they ride their bicycles in a dangerous manner. It is also aimed at reducing the costs of removing illegally parked and abandoned bicycles and temporarily storing them, which are footed by municipalities in Tokyo.

The metropolitan government is poised to set up a study panel on the issue to discuss enacting an ordinance.

In fiscal 2009, about 740,000 bicycles, or nearly 10 percent of approximately 9 million bicycles owned by Tokyo residents, were removed after being parked illegally or abandoned on streets. Some 310,000 of them were discarded after their owners failed to retrieve them within the six-month period set by municipalities.

Local bodies in Tokyo spent a total of 13.5 billion yen on removing illegally parked bicycles and storing them. The ongoing deflation, which has pushed down the prices of bicycles, has encouraged cyclists to easily abandon their bikes.

Difficulties in identifying the owners of abandoned bicycles are attributable largely to a lack of clear provision on what to do when the ownership of bicycles is transferred or when their owners move homes.

The registration, aimed at preventing bicycle theft, became legally compulsory in 1994. A person who buys a bicycle receives a seal bearing the vehicle's registration number after paying a 1,500-yen registration fee. Police departments store information on bicycle owners and use it in case of theft.

Even though there is no punitive clause for those who fail to register their bicycles, about 90 percent of bicycles are registered, according to an industry source. However, it becomes difficult for police to keep track of bicycle owners if they move their residences or hand over their bikes to other people.

Therefore, the metropolitan government's study group will consider legally requiring cyclists to report the changes of their registration in such cases, just like the license plates of cars.

The move is also in response to a growing number of accidents involving bicycles and pedestrians. The ratio of traffic accidents involving bicycles in Tokyo, which had stood at 30 percent in 2001, rose to 36 percent in 2010.

Pointing out that traffic accidents involving bicycles and buses in the January-October period of 2011 rose 40 percent from the corresponding period of the previous year, the Tokyo Bus Association has urged the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to mandate cyclists to attach registration plates to their bikes and enact an ordinance on the safety of bicycles.

"Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, the number of those who use bicycles to commute to their workplaces or schools has increased. If bicycles are obligated to travel on streets instead of sidewalks under the government's policy, the number of accidents will further increase," an association official said. "To prevent reckless riding, cyclists should be required to attach registration numbers."

However, cyclists and bicycle manufacturers may voice opposition to the move on the grounds that it would increase costs and that many consider such plates ugly. Considering such a possibility, the metropolitan government's study group will compile a report on such a measure by the end of this year.

"First of all, we'll take steps to ensure all bicycles will be registered. Then we'll consider ways to require bicycle owners to display their vehicles' registration numbers so that they can be seen clearly," says a metropolitan government official.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun



Critics say Tokyo Gate Bridge should have allowed bicycle traffic

Tokyo Gate Bridge, opened to traffic in February this year, could have been better developed for tourism by allowing bicycles, some critics are alleging.

Bicycles are not allowed to cross the bridge, but just before the opening to traffic on Feb. 4, a cycling event was held on the structure. Satomi Hanai, 28, of Tokyo, participated, and says she thought, "If I miss this opportunity, I may not be able to ever ride (on the bridge)." She was moved by being able to see Tokyo Bay and Mt. Fuji from the bridge.

The 2.6-kilometer bridge connects the Wakasu area of Koto Ward and reclaimed land outside of a breakwater. It is two lanes each way, with a 3.5 meter wide sidewalk only enterable from the Wakasu side. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Tokyo Port Office, which designed the bridge, says that bicycle travel would be dangerous because many large vehicles like dump trucks use the bridge. There are also no facilities on the reclaimed land side, and the undersea tunnel that is led to there is closed to bicycles. The sidewalk is both small and designed as a promenade, with a risk of accidents if bicycles were to travel on it.

A representative of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Bureau of Port and Harbor, which manages the bridge, said, "There was also concern that the bridge's slope was steep."

Meanwhile, the bridges of the 60-kilometer Shimanami Kaido between Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, and Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, that connect islands in the Seto Inland Sea are open to bicycles due to the desire of locals to use the road for daily activities. The sections of roads and bridges are also becoming a sanctuary for cyclists wanting to enjoy the views.

Municipalities along the road have offered bicycles for rent since the opening of the bridges to traffic in 1999, with 48,178 bicycles rented in fiscal 2010 and 57,701 rented in fiscal 2011. A representative of the tourism department in Imabari called the bridges "A tourism resource not existing elsewhere."

At Tokyo Bay, however, in addition to Tokyo Gate Bridge being closed to bicycles, Rainbow Bridge can only be passed by bicycles if they are pushed across. Shigeki Kobayashi of the Bicycle Usage Promotion Study Group said, "The Tokyo bridge designers and managers are uninterested in bicycles, which are now an important form of transportation, and are not thinking of pedestrians, either. Bridges should be made use of in a similar way to Tokyo Tower, which caters to many tourists even though it is a broadcast tower."

Source: Mainichi Shimbun


Concept Electric Bicycle from 2008

Last month my daughters were dancing at the Odaiba Hawaiian Festival.  Due to the large number of performers we were allotted space in an unused exhibition area to prepare.  This area still had items from a 2008 design exhibition were on display.  Imagine my surprise when I found this concept electric bicycle from 2008.  It was like stumbling across an abandoned Zoltar machine at the fairgrounds (that's a BIG reference).

The concept bicycle was the winner of a 2008 design contest for design students.  The bicycle has a number of features that make it attractive to parents who wish to cycle with a child.  It has a low centre of gravity, three wheels for stability, electric assist, and most importantly the child is seated in front, and close to the parent.

But closer inspection reveals these design students are not parents.  The child seat is better described as a "bar stool" as it has little more than a 5cm back, which makes it most unsuitable and dangerous for a child.  There is a reason parents don't sit at the counter at ramen and sushi restaurants, and that is because children have a hard time staying perched atop stools.  Even with the foot rest and child handlebars it is still a poor design for children.

As of 2012, I've not seen any of these bicycles on the street so its safe to assume that this one never made it out of the concept stage!


Get your Japan cycling tweets at tweets.tokyobybike.com

I recently set up the domain tweets.tokyobybike.com to showcase the tweets about cycling in Tokyo and Japan from @tokyobybike in a more magazine like layout.

The page does a good job of grouping tweets around topics, and displays pictures from the articles linked which makes viewing tweets a much more visual experience than before.

But the bigest benefit of the tweets page is that it is updated constantly, unlike the Tokyo By Bike blog which can go long periods with out an update (sorry about that!)


The Super Tour of Japan Episode (Pedal Asia Episode 3)

Episode dedicated to all things Tour of Japan. Wrap up and interviews with Genesis rider John Lovelock and support staff Greg Nunn, James Machin domestic rider and all round fan of Japanese cycling and Abeki Ryoji of Champion Systems - official supplier of race kit for the tour. Loads of info and some real insight into asian pro cycling. It's our best so far so enjoy.

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