How Suburban Tokyo Promotes Cycling (without even trying)

Despite poor cycling infrastructure 14% of all trips made in Tokyo each day are made by bicycle. What is it about the city's suburbs that make cycling such an attractive transport option?

A Tour of Tokyo's Newest Bicycle Lanes

New bicycle lanes are appearing all over Tokyo, and thats great even if the lanes aren't so great themselves! We cycled as many as we could and here are our observations.

Fitness isn't a goal, it's a side effect

If you or a friend are cycling to get fit and not enjoying it then cycle to the shops instead. Before you know it you'll be fit, car free and better off financially.

How to Turn Your Old Mountain Bike Into a Tidy Commuter

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 ...

Japan's National Bicycle Commuting Ban

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.

Cycling My Fuji and Fuji's Five Lakes

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.

August 30, 2012

Oh no ...

There are so many things wrong with this picture it hard to know where to begin.

This is what happens when you get a pro cyclist to run a cycle skills and safety course in Japan.  He must have arrived in full pro racer kit, on his super expensive, ultra light road bicycle to cement the impression that he's a "real" cyclist and he knows what he is doing, so listen up. One twitter follower wondered if he threw energy gels into the crowd upon arrival because, as we all know, cycling to the supermarket without the correct fuel can be disastrous.

But all that fell apart the moment he stepped off the racing bicycle and onto the mama-chari in all his helmeted and Lycra glory.  Just like Bradley Wiggins ill informed  comments about cycling safety and helmets after a cyclist was killed in an accident with an official Olympic bus, this is another example of why pro racers aren't the best people to be teaching our children about bicycle safety.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and this is a perfect illustration if why regular people on regular bicycles just do not need specialised cycling wear.

I found the photo quite amusing.  Share it with your friends.

August 26, 2012

Suginami Children's Traffic Park Time Lapse Video

Today, along with family friends, we visited the Suginami Children's Traffic Park where I shot this short time lapse video to share with you all.



It was quite a hot afternoon, so there weren't as many children out on bicycles as other times when we have visited, but those that were cycling really seemed to be enjoying themselves. As always the pedal go-karts were extremely popular.

I've written more about the Suginami Children's Traffic Park in an earlier post you can find here, which includes directions and opening times.

August 15, 2012

Pedal Day 2012. Three day bicycle festival in Tokyo.



Three days of bike events spread over three venues in Tokyo will bring the super cool Tokyo cycling community, as well as local artists and cafe owners together to share their talents, and a few drinks.

This bicycle festival promotes all genres of bike and the idea that owning and riding one should be fun, and it have a few ways of showing it.

On Friday 17th, at Yoyogi Park, there will be a Tokyo Bicycle Beauty show (think fashion, girls and bikes), Tokyo Bicycle Builders Award (“The best and most original bicycle award” – eight wheels, anyone?), a Pedal Market (check out the skills of and order original frames from Tokyo’s best builders) and even a bunny hop contest to round things off from 8 p.m. Head there from around 2 p.m. to catch things warming up.

On Saturday and Sunday, the action moves to Aoyama. Out the front of the United Nations University is the Farmer’s Market venue – and just along the street near Omotesando Station is 246 Common, a neat collection of temporary cafes and bars selling drinks and organic grub from stylishly retro caravans and tents between the buildings.

Read more about the event in English in this great article by Tokyo Weekender, or visit the official Pedal Day 2012 site.

Unfortunately I'm out of  town this weekend, but partner in crime Gavin Dixon will be at the festivities collecting interviews for the next Pedal Asia Podcast.

August 09, 2012

Why is free bicycle parking at this Tokyo station going unused?


Recently our local railway station in suburban Tokyo increased the number of "3 hour free" parking spaces in a large, multi-story bicycle parking facility to reduce sidewalk congestion by encouraging shoppers to park their bicycles off the street. Interestingly the majority of these free parking spaces remain unused while the number of bicycles parked on the sidewalk have not decreased. Why is this the case?

The bicycle is the most common choice of transport when it comes to shopping in the suburbs of Tokyo where the local shotengai, or shopping street, with its vegetable store, butcher and bakery etc. hasn't been forced out of existence by large supermarket chains. Japanese mama-chari bicycles feature an relaxed upright cycling position and are equiped with large baskets, usually front and rear, making them perfect for suburban shopping trips.

Tokyo shoppers have become accustomed to cycling from store to store, plotting an efficient course with minimal backtracking, or one where frozen goods are purchased right before the ride home rather than at the beginning of the shopping trip.  As a result shoppers are used to parking directly outside the store they're visiting, in many cases they'll leave their comleted shopping in the bicycle basked outside while they quickly pop inside the bakery for a loaf of bread.

Compare this to cycling to a central parking facility then having to walk back and forth between stores, carrying your groceries, before having to return to to the parking lot before cycling home.  Obviously the former method of cycling from shop to shop is faster, more efficient and convenient than using a large parking complex. Suburban shoppers know this and will not switch to centralized bicycle parking if it means longer, more inconvenient shopping trips.

So while large bicycle parking facilities conveniently located close to train stations are essential for commuters who cycle to the station then take the train to work, they aren't a viable alternative to convenient street parking for shoppers.

I believe urban planners should have paid more attention to existing patterns of bicycle use and cater for those patterns. It seems obvious that increasing the number of free parking spaces will lead to a decrease in the number of bicycles parked on the sidewalk, but a deeper investigation of how shoppers use their bicycles reveals that no matter how many free parking spaces are available, if they're not conveniently located for shoppers they'll never be used.