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 at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

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.

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.

October 25, 2012

CYCLE MODE International 2012

Its on again, Japan's largest bicycle exhibition Cycle Mode International!
The annual event running from November 2 to 4 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba is expected to draw a crowd of over 40,000 people, testament to how cycling is continuing to grow here in Japan.

Over 1500 bicycles, frames, clothing and accessories will be on display, from over 500 internationally known brands and smaller local craftsmen showing off their unique, sometimes one of a kind, products. Of the 1500 bicycles on display 800 mountain, road, folding and electric bicycles will be available for test rides on the purpose built 400m oval at the exhibition centre.

In addition to products on display there will be lectures and classes in bicycle maintenance, cycling and training techniques held through out the event.  There will be as always be acrobatic performances from BMX riders on a dirt track on site.

Tickets are ¥1,200 at the door and advance tickets can be purchased for ¥1,000 from Ticket Pia, convenience stores or via the Cycle Mode 2012 website.

Myself and Pedal Asia co-host Gavin Dixon will most likely attend Cycle Mode on Friday in a doomed attempt to avoid the crowds.  We'll be interviewing for the Pedal Asia Podcast and I'll be sure to pack a camera so I can share pictures with Tokyo By Bike readers.

If you're going to attend the event, drop us a line!

October 16, 2012

Oita residents want bicycle parking, not bicycle lanes.


Today I discovered a wonderful story of residents in Oita using a newly developed bicycle lane as bicycle parking.

Bicycles parked in a bicycle lane, Oita, Japan.

Initially I was amused, "Look at those wacky Japanese mistaking a bicycle lane for bicycle parking." and had a chuckle to myself, but upon reflection I realized that by parking in the bicycle lane these residents are sending a strong message to their city, and that message is "We don't need bicycle lanes, we need bicycle parking."

Urban planners obviously did not consult residents before foisting this unneeded infrastructure upon them.  Fortunately residents have taken it upon themselves to use the new infrastructure in a way that brings the most benefit to them. Power to the people!

October 12, 2012

Keirin racing in Japan, don't forget your wallet.


Every four years coinciding with the Olympics there is a surge of interest in keirin racing, and international eyes turn to Japan from where the keirin originated. But keirin racing in Japan isn't quite the same as the international Olympic sport.

The first keirin event in Japan was organised by the local government in the city of Kokura in 1948 as a gambling event to raise funds for post-war reconstruction and as a way to develop a lucrative bicycle industry.  From there it has grown into a nationwide spectacle with 47 velodromes around Japan each hosting events on 70 days each year, so there is a keirin race going on somewhere in Japan almost every day.

The majority of Japanese velodromes are outdoors and races have traditionally been held during the day, but that tradition is changing with more night races being held on weeknights so salary men can attend races after work.

Despite the glamorous image of Olympic keirin racing, keirin in Japan has a very poor reputation indeed due to its association with gambling.  Your average race goer is male, in his 50's or over, smells of tobacco and alcohol, will skip work to visit the track and is most certainly more interested in gambling than cycling.  Each time I've visited velodromes in Japan most punters have been indoors, smoking, placing bets and watching numbers flash across monitors rather than out in the stands cheering on the racers.

The keirin website actually promotes the fact that betting tickets can be purchased on line or via mobile phone without even having to visit the track in the belief that this convenience will attract a younger audience.  What they're promoting here is gambling, not cycling.

Annual sales of betting tickets reach approximately 800 billion yen, with roughly 60 million tickets sold each year. Keirin is clearly more about gambling than cycling.

Promoters are trying hard to lift the image of keirin in Japan but are failing miserably as are promoters of Japan's other gambling related sports, horse and motor boat racing. The keirin website has a page encouraging people to "take part". I clicked expecting to find times I could visit and ride the velodrome track, or join amateur races only to discover a page informing me how easy it is to fill out a betting form!

Keirin promoters in Japan are failing to promote their sport, instead they're promoting gambling which only appeals to a very small segment of the population and thus will have a difficult time increasing their audience.

As a tourist visiting Japan who is thinking of heading to the track for an afternoon or evening of entertainment, don't expect to get directions from your hotel tourist desk.  Keirin's image here is so bad that I've heard stories of tourist desk staff actively discouraging tourists from visiting the track.  Tourist desks will most certainly not have any keirin pamphlets on hand that's for sure, nor will they find it easy to give you directions to the nearest velodrome, its not mainstream enough for that.

But if you love your bikes, love track racing, and happen to be in Japan I'd still recommend paying a visit to a Japanese velodrome as its an experience you won't get anywhere else, though it may not be the experience you expected.

October 06, 2012

FNN News Covers Bicycle Safety Measures in Japan


FNN News video about bicycle safety in Japan and the measures being considered to improve cyclists behaviour.

Those guys at the 1 minute mark are the ones responsible for our cycling future ...



I still do not understand the hysteria, nor the need to go around implementing new rules when the old ones would work fine if only they were enforced.

October 05, 2012

Lawbreaking cyclists to be forced to attend bicycle safety courses?

Japanese officialdom has once again got a bee in its bonnet about bicycle safety despite a decrease in the number of fatal bicycle accidents.

Since stricter policing of bicycle laws began in January this year over 4,000 people have been issued warnings for such offences as ignoring traffic signals, riding without brakes, cycling while holding umbrellas, mobile phones or cycling with headphones. (That's right issues warnings, not fined, not arrested, just had their bicycle ride interrupted by an irate police officer who gives them a slap on the wrist and sends them on their way.)

Cycling with headphones in Tokyo would earn you a Y50,000 fine, if police did their job.
Now someone at the "Department of Wasting Public Money on Stupid Ideas" has come up with the proposal that unruly cyclists should be forced to attend cycling safety programs in order to improve their manners.

Recently we've seen the monthly police crackdown on cyclists in Tokyo, the proposal of a compulsory bicycle number plate system, and now forced bicycle retraining programs for cyclists deemed to have bad cycling manners (however bad manners are defined). What have cyclists done to raise the ire of the police and local government that causes the to think up such idiotic and expensive schemes?

If police really want cyclists to improve their manners they have to start enforcing the law, not once a month with huge numbers of police on the street setting up roadblocks to check cyclists, but every single day as a part of their daily duty.  Hit cyclists with fines if they're breaking the law and you'll soon see an improvement in cyclist behaviour.

Until the police do their job cyclists will not change their ways and officials will continue to dream up expensive schemes to try and make cyclists ride safer.

The solution is simple, and doesn't need a new scheme, just enforce the law.