September 30, 2013

Just when I thought I understood Japanese cycling laws, I discover something new.

A new law will take effect on December 1st, 2013 which will ban cycling against the flow of traffic in an effort to reduce the number of bicycle related accidents police warned on Friday.

But hold on a second. Aren't bicycles already required by law to use the left lane? Well yes, but it seems there has been a legal loophole which the new law aims to close.

Woman cycles in bicycle lane in Tokyo, Japan
In Japan cyclists can cycle in both directions on sidewalks wider than 3m which are marked as shared use. When cycling on the road bicycles are required by law to keep to the left. So why this new regulation when a law already exists?

Many roads in Japan don't have space for sidewalks, but have a small area on each side of the road marked for pedestrian use by a single white stripe of paint. These side lanes are rarely wide enough for pedestrians to walk two abreast.  Under normal conditions pedestrians walk on the roads and when a vehicle approaches they drift, single file, into the side lane until it passes by then disperse to fill all the available road space again.

This revision to the Road Traffic Act pertains to those roads with side lanes. Until now there has been no law preventing cyclists from riding against the flow traffic in these narrow side lanes. Under the revised law bicycles must use the left side of the road at all times. Finally, some much needed consistency.

Cyclists who do not keep to the left-hand side of the road may face up to 30 days in prison or a fine of ¥20,000, police said. The key word in that sentence being "may", because as we all know cycling laws in Japan are rarely, if ever, enforced by the police.

According to National Police Agency data, 3,956 cyclists nationwide were given warnings in 2011, including 17 that reportedly led to fines, meaning that 3,939 cyclists broke the law, but were let off by the police. Is it any wonder cycling laws are largely ignored?

September 26, 2013

Saitama City recently announced a plan to create a 200km network of bicycle lanes within 10 years as part of its commitment to ensure the safety of cyclists and to promote a bicycle friendly environment.

Bicycle lane in Kanazawa Japan
According to the city Saitama Prefecture has the highest bicycle ownership per capita, partly due to the prefecture being entirely flat, with 15% of all commuters using their bicycles to ride to and from the station. Under a plan to be finalised this financial year the first lanes to be developed will expand radially from major railway stations and within 10 years connect schools, parks and public buildings to a 200km network of bicycle lanes around the city.

Currently it is unknown of the lanes will be fully separated from traffic, or if they'll simply be blue stripes on the side of the road offering little protection, but the fact that Saitama City is committed to the network and to bicycle safety is commendable.

Saitama already hosts numerous cycling events including the Tour de Saitama and next month will hold a UCI event; the "Saitama Criterium by Tour de France". The city hopes that such events will further promote bicycle usage within Saitama Prefecture, but admits they have to do their part to ensure cycling is safe for all, including not only providing infrastructure, but increasing awareness of cycling rules, and devising systems to prevent bicycle abandonment, failing that, systems to efficiently handle abandoned bicycles.

Implementation of cycling lanes has proven difficult in space starved Japan where cyclists are already quite at home cycling on the sidewalks. Saitama city is using the momentum of its national and international cycling events to garner support to drive cycling infrastructure forward.

Lets hope it does not fail, and that the bicycle lanes provided are of better quality than this bicycle lane in Yokohama.

September 25, 2013

On October 26 Japan's Saitama City will play host to the Saitama Criterium by Le Tour de France. The race, featuring 57 professional cyclists including 25 Japanese riders and 32 International riders from this years Tour de France, will take place on a 2.7km Circuit in the heart of Saitama City, just 20km north of Tokyo. The event will consist of 3 cycling races, including 2 points races inspired by the Japanese keirin format as well as the main 54 km criterium race, reflecting the Tour de France classifications.

Tour de France teams and riders confirmed to be competing in the event include :

Team Sky Pro Cycling

  • Chris Froome
  • Richie Porte
  • Geraint Thomas
  • Peter Kennaugh

Cannondale Pro Cycling

  • Peter Sagan
  • Ivan Basso
  • Nariyuki Masuda
  • Juraj Sagan

Team Argos Shimano

  • Simon Geschke
  • Marcel Kittel
  • Albert Timmer
  • Tom Stamsnijder

Orica-GreenEDGE

  • Simon Gerrans
  • Fumiyuki Beppu
  • Cameron Meyer
  • Simon Clarke

AG2R La Mondiale

  • John Gadret
  • Christophe Riblon
  • Romain Bardet
  • Blel Kadri

FDJ.FR

  • Arthur Vichot
  • Jeremy Roy
  • Alexndre Geniez
  • Jussi Veikkanen

Team Europcar

  • Yukiya Arashiro
  • Vincent Jerome
  • Yohann Gene
  • Jerome Cousin


Japanese riders including Tour de France competitors Yukiya Arashiro, Fumiyuki Beppu and Nariyuki Masuda will enjoy an all too rare opportunity to race a UCI event on their home soil with local crowd support.

With sports cycling booming in Japan this is an unique opportunity for local cyclists to see champions of the Tour close up and local officials are using the event as leverage to improve cycling infrastructure in the city, having recently announced a plan to create a 200km network of bicycle lanes within 10 years as part of its commitment to ensure the safety of cyclists and to promote a bicycle friendly environment.

The Saitama Criterium by Le Tour de France will take place on October 26, 2013, and can be conveniently reached via Saitama Shintoshin station which services the Keihin-Tōhoku, Takasaki and Utsunomiya railway lines. Saitama's annual Cycle Festa will also be taking place on the day in the grounds of Saitama Super Arena.

More information can be found at: http://saitama-criterium.jp/

September 24, 2013

Notice an over abundance of crossing guards on your way to work this morning?

Saturday marked the beginning of the National Police Department's Autumn Road Safety Campaign which means for the next week every street corner will be manned by police officers, retired police officers and civic minded volunteers all armed with whistles, high-vis vests, and yellow flags.  Their mission, to treat the entire population of Japan like first graders by holding their hand as they cross the road. Because, you know, roads are dangerous and as pedestrians and cyclists we need constant police protection (well, for the duration of the symbolic road safety campaign at least).

In the past during this campaign, if you're a cyclist you could expect to be accosted multiple times even on a short bicycle commute by the over zealous police.  One year I was lawfully cycling down the road when a police officer stopped me and told me to cycle on the sidewalk. I argued that the law states that bicycles must use the road but he insisted I cycle among the pedestrians. To avoid a scene I cycled the sidewalk till the officer was out of sight and proceeded to cycle past 4 other police officers who couldn't care less that I was cycling on the road.

Recently however there seems to be less enthusiasm from the police and volunteers manning the road safety tents haphazardly erected on every street corner. Over the past few years volunteers have merely sat in the tents and observed traffic flow by rarely lifting a finger to point out an infringement, and hardly seeming to have the breath to blow a whistle.

Really these events are quite a farce as they focus on "protecting" pedestrians and cyclists rather than ensuring that motorists obey the law thus making roads safer. Rather than guarding pedestrians as they cross the road under a green light the police should be stopping motorists for running red lights or turning into intersections without giving way to pedestrians and cyclists.  They should be making the roads safe so pedestrians and cyclists do not need protection. This is after all a "Road Safety Campaign" is it not?

road safety campaign poster in japan
Essentially for the duration of the event police herd pedestrians across the road, and shepherd cyclists out of the way of cars, all because of the belief that if pedestrians and cyclists get out of the way of motor vehicles then accidents will not occur. They believe pedestrians and cyclists to be the cause of accidents rather than the victims when they should be ensuring motorists, the most dangerous presence on the road, are obeying the law.

Roads are not the exclusive domain of motor vehicles, and the police better wake up to the fact that its the vehicles, yes bicycles included, that need policing not the pedestrians.

If the police are serious about getting cyclists off the sidewalks and onto the roads then steps need to be taken to ensure the roads are safe for all.

And finally the police need to enforce the law consistently and continuously through out the year, not just in short bursts during bi annual road safety campaigns, or monthly crackdowns.

September 20, 2013

Tokyo, it's better by bike, and so is Osaka, but if you don't know your way around and want to ensure you visit the city's most vibrant and interesting places you'd better book a bicycle tour with Cycle Osaka. Do it. Do it now.

The team at Cycle Osaka love the city of Osaka, they love the freedom of the bicycle and enjoy meeting new and interesting people, so the only thought that struck them when they decided to start organised bicycle tours of Osaka, Japan's most underrated city, was "Why didn't we think of doing it sooner?"

Being travelers themselves Cycle Osaka guides have already mapped out the best cafes, temples, parks and photo opportunities through out the city and have prepared three fantastic routes which ensure you'll see more sights of Osaka in a single day of cycling than you could ever reach via public transport. You won't feel railroaded either as tours are flexible and if you're interested in visiting somewhere in particular, with a little notice, Cycle Osaka will do their best to find a bicycle friendly way to get there.

The courses on offer include: a full day course starting at 10am (around 6 hours), a half day course starting at 2pm (around 3 hours) and also a 'neon lights' evening course starting at 5pm (around 3 hours). All courses cover the best of Osaka in the time available and give you the best memories and photographs possible.

Cycling at a relaxed pace the tours take in such sights as Nakanoshima, an island where the last of Osaka's pre-war buildings remain, the mint where our fine Yen is printed, Shintennoji Temple one of the oldest continuously administered Buddhist temples in Japan, and of course no bicycle tour of Osaka would be complete without a visit to Osaka Castle.

Old buildings and historical sights are great, but Osaka is a thriving modern city with sights and sounds you must experience to believe, which is why the tours also take in the bustling districts of Dotonbori and Amerimura popular with young and fashionable shoppers (Osaka's version of Tokyo's trendy Harajuku and Shibuya neighbourhoods).

In addition to the planned itinerary Osaka is alive with activity so you never know what you'll discover around the next corner, and its these unexpected discoveries and events that make exploring cities by bicycle so much fun.

All courses are reasonably flat and the pace is relaxed making the tour accessible to anyone capable of cycling 25km over a 6 hour period. Tours are open to people of all ages and 6 speed cross bicycles are provided. Lunch is also provided on the day, but the menu is up to you!

To secure your place on the tour please make a booking via the Cycle Osaka website at least 2 days in advance.

As an additional service, Cycle Osaka can also rent bicycles at a rate of 2000 yen a day (from 10:00-17:00) on days they're not running tours or when bicycles are available.

So leave your train maps and hefty guide books at home, grab your camera and let the team at Cycle Osaka prepare you a course which will cram in everything you want to see in a day.

Address:
Cycle-Osaka
1303, 2-15-6, Sagisu
Fukushima Ward
Osaka City
Japan
553-0022

E-Mail:
cycleosaka@gmail.com

Phone:
+81 80 5325 8975 (from abroad)
080 5325 8975 (from Japan)

September 16, 2013

Yesterday I recalled reading an article which pointed out that we're all playing the board game Monopoly wrong and have been for decades.

It seems there is a Monopoly rule which, at some stage in history, players collectively chose to ignore and which has long since been forgotten. The rule states that if a player lands on a property and decides not to purchase it, then said property goes up for auction and is sold to the highest bidder. Apparently this rule created conflict in family games of Monopoly and many chose not to observe it as the game flowed more smoothly without it in play.


As children we learn Monopoly from our family and friends and as a result we've never actually sat down and read the formal rules of the game. This means we're all playing on rule set which has evolved from the original over time, yet still maintains the integrity and playability of the game.

The game is barely affected as the socially accepted rules work just as well as the official rules.

Then it occurred to me, cycling laws in Japan are exactly the same!

Cyclists in Japan are never taught cycling rules from an official source beyond the occasional bicycle safety session at school. The job is left to parents, the same parents who taught them bogus Monopoly rules based on the inaccurate rules taught to them by their parents. Is it any wonder they teach flawed cycling rules as well?

In addition to never being formally taught, cycling rules are also rarely enforced with any consistency by the police leaving them wide open for interpretation by the general population. Therefore, with no memory of the actual rules of the road, society has collectively allowed the rules to evolve over time into a set that works for society even if they're not the exact rules laid down by Parker Brothers .. er .. I mean the Japanese Government. Rules, that although not official, still maintain the integrity and playability of the game if you will.

For example the law states cyclists can ride only on sidewalks marked as shared use, but children under 13 can cycle on all sidewalks. From a family perspective this is less than ideal. You're on the road battling traffic while trying to look out for your young child who has just graduated from training wheels and is wobbling, alone, all over the sidewalk with nobody close by to remind them to ride on the left or to pay attention at crossroads.

Therefore, over time and out of convenience, this rule has evolved to mean cycling on all sidewalks is acceptable. This is what children learn from their parents, more through observation than any formal teaching, and its a rule which is never enforced by the police. It has evolved into something socially acceptable and there are countless other examples, such as cycling while holding an umbrella.

Occasionally, after decades of neglect, the police enter the picture and attempt to enforce cycling laws as they're written. This totally baffles the general populace as they believe they're well within the law as its what they've been taught, and the rules to which they adhere are generally accepted by society.

Cycling with two or more children as passengers is another practice that has been socially accepted in Japan until the police tried to put a stop to it. What is a mother to do with her toddler as she cycles her older child to kindergarten? Leave them at home in front of the steaming rice cooker? Did you think of that Mr. Lawmaker? Huh? Parents refused to comply and in the end police had to back down as society deemed the practice acceptable.

By and large sporadic attempts by the police to enforce the law as its written fail. Nobody is forced to "Go To Jail. Go directly to Jail." and after a week or two of effort the police retreat to their koban to play shogi using a flawed set of rules handed down to them by their ancestors.

Love it or hate it cycling rules in Japan have evolved into what is accepted by society, not that which is dictated to them by disconnected, chauffeur driven, bureaucrats not worthy of second place in a beauty contest. If the police expect cyclists to obey the law they had better start both teaching and enforcing it consistently otherwise the people of Japan will continue to play by Monopoly rules.

September 12, 2013

Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism formed a panel on September 24 to perform a feasibility study into introducing roundabouts to Japan.

Kill. Me. Now.

Proponents of roundabouts in Japan argue that in the event of an earthquake disabling signals traffic can continue to flow. So lets go screw up out transport infrastructure, forever, for those very rare occasions that earthquakes take out our signals. Or we could forgo the much hated infrastructure and simply teach our motorists to give way to the right at uncontrolled intersections.

They also point out that roundabouts allow vehicles to flow smoothly when there is no traffic ahead, and that there is no need to come to a complete stop at an intersection if the road is clear. Roads in Japan are rarely clear, and roundabouts restrict the number of cars that can enter an intersection severely backing up traffic at busy times. Tokyo has nothing but busy times.

Traditionally cyclists and roundabouts have not mixed well, with numerous studies concluding that roundabouts place cyclists at greater risk than conventional intersections. Cyclists are at risk when entering the roundabout, they're at risk when cars enter the roundabout, and also risk being struck as cars exit the roundabout. In fact it is worse than that, with a recent study showing that a single lane roundabout creates an environment with 24 conflict points while drivers are expecting just 4, leaving them blind to 20 potential accident spots.

Lets hope this panel of "experts" do their homework thoroughly, considering bicycles and pedestrians, not just motor vehicles, in their roundabout strategy. They must keep in mind that bicycles are legally classified as light vehicles in Japan and required by law to travel on the road, therefore any infrastructure decisions that do not take into account the needs of cyclists are grossly negligent.

Currently the panel is simply compiling a report about reductions in accident rates and social changes that have occurred in countries that have introduced round abouts, therefore it still remains to be seen if roundabouts will start popping up around the country. Lets hope not.
At first thought the idea of bicycle commuting in Tokyo is insane. Its a huge concrete metropolis, home to tens of millions of people, an untold number of motor vehicles and during rush hour they're all intent on just one thing, getting to work. The thought of cycling to work through that mess may strike you as insane, but in reality Tokyo is a great city in which to bicycle commute and the benefits make it all worthwhile.

a bicycle commuter in tokyo

Why would you want to bike commute in Tokyo, home of the worlds cleanest and most efficient public transport systems, anyway?


Trains are crowded

Lets face it, riding rush hour trains in Tokyo can be torture. Just when you think the train is packed to capacity it stops at a station and attendants push in even more people. At times you can feel the air being squeezed out of your lungs by the combined weight of humanity pushing you bodily against an overweight salaryman who evidently had nattou on garlic bread for breakfast. Lets not mention the body odour in the summer, the wet dog smell in winter, or the coffee and tobacco breath of of your fellow travellers .. sorry mentioned it didn't I?

"Roads are crowded too", I hear you say. True, but unless you're commuting along a major route such as 246 or route 20, which is  not advised, the traffic isn't horrendous and you'll discover yourself travelling faster than the cars anyway.  Most drivers in Tokyo are aware of cyclists on the road and are relatively polite to them too. Of course inattentive, careless and speeding drivers abound, but there really are relatively few openly aggressive drivers on Tokyo roads.

"Cars pollute, not only do they smell worse than a salaryman's armpit, but the pollution also damages your lungs", some may object. Maybe, if you're cycling in 1970, but emissions from today's cars are quite odourless. Unless you're cycling along 246, 20, or Kanpachi vehicle emissions are barely noticeable as you speed between the rows of almost stationary cars.


Bicycles are faster

Lets say your commute involves a walk to the station, changing trains once on the way and walking from the station to the office. Now lets agree that this commute takes an hour door to door. I can guarantee you the same commute can be done by bicycle in 30 minutes.  Why am I so sure? Because that's my daily commute exactly.

"But you're a finely tuned athlete, of course you're faster.", someone whined. Well believe me, that's quite untrue, I don't want to sweat like a dog on my commute therefore I cycle quite sedately. Twice a week I notice a mother cycling the sidewalk carrying her child in a child seat. We take the same route for 6km, her on the sidewalk me on the road, and she consistently keeps pace with me. We're both faster than the traffic, but neither of us are needlessly exerting ourselves.

Imagine saving 30 minutes each way. That means leaving half an hour later in the morning and arriving home half an hour earlier. That's a full extra hour a day you can spend with your family, or doing your own thing, an extra hour in the day to do with what you wish, not which is dictated to you by society.

If you don't want more free time please feel free to stop reading here.


Still with me? Great.


Benefits, benefits, benefits

Physical exercise has numerous health and mental benefits which have been well documented elsewhere, in addition to those, here are some of my thoughts on the benefits of bicycle commuting.

A crowded train and long commute can be tiring and stressful not to mention both soul and body destroying. By the time you arrive at the office you're tired, stressed and feel like you've already put in a full day. When you cycle in however you arrive feeling awake, alert, refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.

At the end of a long stressful day of work who needs a long stressful commute? In addition to the "commuter stress" you experience on an over packed train your mind is free to mull over all the stressful things that happened today, and all the stressful events of the future. By the time you arrive at your home station your stress is likely to have doubled.

On the flip side, when you're cycling the physical exercise gives you a rush of endorphins which naturally kill stress. In addition to this if you're not paying 100% attention to your surroundings you're likely to end up under a bus, so your brain doesn't have time to concentrate on all the stressful things in your life. You arrive home feeling refreshed, energised and stress free. In addition to this there has been a clean break between work and home life, you've left all your professional baggage back at the office to be dealt with tomorrow.

Another benefit of cycling to work is that if you enjoy cycling you get to indulge in your hobby twice a day. Take that golfers!


In short while public transport in Tokyo is clean and efficient, during peak hour the crowds can make it hell. By cycling to work you can avoid that unpleasantness and unnecessary stress.  Working in Japanese companies, or companies the world over, can be stressful and cycling helps reduce that stress both chemically, and by giving your mind a break by allowing it to concentrate on something else for a short while. Above all cycling in Tokyo can be faster than taking the train, and generally for commutes up to 15km this is the case. This means more spare time, something in short supply for workers in Japan. If you love to ride your bike you can do it every day by better utilising time you'd otherwise waste crushed into a train with unhappy golfers.

While people cycle to work for numerous different reasons, these are some of the benefits I enjoy and I'd like to encourage you to give it a try. Tokyo is such an easy city to get around by bicycle, you'll be amazed at just how compact the city really is.

If you're not already cycling to work what is stopping you? If you are, you may have different reasons for doing so that me. What are they?

September 09, 2013

Tokyo has unveiled its plans to build the Olympic Mountain Biking course on an island of reclaimed land in the middle of Tokyo Bay. Named the Sea Forest Mountain Bike Course it promises to be a lush green, albeit artificial, forest. An oasis in the city if you will.

But in a twist of irony it has been revealed, actually we've known for a some time, that the island upon which the mountain biking event is to be held is currently inaccessible by bicycle. The reclaimed land is connected to its neighbouring islands via two tunnels and a bridge all of which are closed to bicycle traffic.

Tokyo Gate Bridge which services the island opened with fanfare in 2012 and opening ceremonies included an organised cycling event which passed over the bridge. But as the bridge has no bicycle lanes, and a punishingly steep gradient it has since been closed to bicycle traffic. As it stands, with no subway access, the only way to reach the island is by car, but this will be addressed with the construction of foot bridges before the beginning of the games in 2020.
Tokyo Gate Bridge. No Bicycles Allowed.
The entire Tokyo Bay area, where the majority of Olympic events are to be held, is decidedly difficult to access by bicycle as Tokyo Gate Bridge is closed to cyclists and cycling is not allowed on Rainbow Bridge, although you can walk your bicycle over. This makes the area very difficult to access by bicycle.

One thing we're hoping is that transport planners will consider cycling when designing access to the Olympic venues and that the infrastructure they lay down for cyclists will continue to exist long after the games have finished.

Given close proximity of Olympic venues providing a bicycle share system with parking stations at each venue, and a network of cycling lanes connecting the venues would allow spectators to quickly and easily move between events in a convenient and environmentally friendly way.

Sadly the general public has very little say about the direction of development of the Olympic sites. No public hearings, very little public input.  If you'd like to see world class cycling infrastructure in Tokyo for 2020 then join me in tweeting  Tokyo Governor @inosenaoki to keep transport, and in particular cycling, forefront in his mind.

Read more about venues for cycling at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

September 08, 2013

On September 7 in Buenos Aires the International Olympic Committee announced that Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics. This decision left us here at Tokyo By Bike wondering "Where will the 2020 Olympic cycling events be held?"

Tokyo successfully marketed itself as a safe, friendly and above all compact destination for the Olympics and proposed that the majority of events be held within just 8km of the yet to be constructed Olympic Village. Where will Tokyo, a city of 35 million inhabitants, find space for new Olympic class facilities, not to mention an Olympic Village? The answer lies on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay, on islands which did not even exist when Tokyo last hosted the Olympic Games in 1964.

Even though the games are still seven long years away we can share what we already know about cycling venues and facilities for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.


Road Cycling

Imperial Place Garden
At the 1964 Olympics the Olympic Road Cycling race was held in Hachijoji, Western Tokyo, quite far from central Tokyo. In 2020 the race will begin in the heart of Tokyo at the Imperial Palace Garden and as a result will draw a huge crowd of spectators.  The race will wind its way around the historic moats, through tree lined streets and Tokyo's many park lands before heading west to finish line in the lush greenery of Musashino Forest Park.

Musashino Forest Park
While details of the exact course are currently not known, given the short distance between the Imperial Palace and Musashino Forest Park we can safely assume that the race will consist of a number of laps around a circuit in central Tokyo before the cyclists head west to the finish line in Musashino. The course will most likely highlight Tokyo's many parks, and historic buildings breaking the myth that the city is nothing more than a concrete jungle.


Track Cycling

As with the Cycling Road race in 1964, Track cycling was also held in Hachijoji in a temporary velodrome built especially for the event. For the 2020 Olympics a velodrome will be constructed on a man made island in Tokyo Bay flanked by the Ariake Arena and the Olympic Gymnastic centre.

Olympic Velodrome
The new velodrome will consist of a temporary wooden track and have seating for 5,000 spectators.  After the Games the track will be disassembled and the wooden materials recycled. There is a slight, ever so slight, possibility that the track could be recycled as, well a track, but in a location outside the heart of Tokyo.


Mountain Biking

Olympic Mountain Biking at the 2020 Olympics will take place on a purpose built course on an island of its own in the heart of Tokyo Bay. Organisers claim that the Sea Forest Mountain Bike Course is easily accessible, but as a relatively new island, not currently connected to the subway system, that claim is difficult to believe.  Also, ironically, it is currently impossible to access this island by bicycle as the Tokyo Gate Bridge is closed to bicycle traffic.

Sea Forest Mountain Bike Course
Olympic Equestrian events will be held on an almost identical island next to the mountain bike course, with the rowing course in between. Looking at the design of the islands and the channel in between you'd think they planned it that way all along!  These islands promise to be forested and green for the Olympic events, providing contrast to the urban backdrop.

The Olympic Mountain Biking course is unlikely to become permanent as it occupies prime realestate which will almost certainly be redeveloped at the end of the games.


BMX

The Olympic BMX track will be constructed right next door to the Olympic Velodrome in Ariake in the centre of the Olympic facilities concentrated around Tokyo Bay.  The site provides an interesting setting surrounded by trees and water despite being in the heart of one of the biggest cities of the world.

Olympic BMX Course
Of all the cycling facilities the BMX track occupies the least space but given the fate of the velodrome track next door it is most likely this area will also be redeveloped after the games.


Triathlon

It's only 1/3 cycling, but that's OK with us. While we know Odaiba Marine Park will host the swimming leg of the triathlon there is still no concrete information about the cycling course, nor the running leg. We'll keep you posted as new information is revealed.

Odaiba Marine Park
The Games present Tokyo with a welcome opportunity to convert the islands of Tokyo Bay into an area of lush forest parks, housing world class sporting and recreation facilities, which would be a wonderful reward for the citizens of Tokyo, millions of whom will be working hard and making sacrifices to ensure the 2020 Olympic Games are an outstanding success. Unfortunately due to space constraints it seems that many of the facilities, in particular the cycling facilities will be redeveloped once the games have ended.

One would hope that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will make the BMX and mountain biking courses available to the public, at least for a limited time after the games so that cycling enthusiasts can experience the thrill of cycling the Olympic courses before they're swallowed up by the city.

In addition to the facilities themselves, large scale redevelopment of areas of the city gives the Tokyo Metropolitan Government the perfect chance to improve cycling infrastructure within the city. Olympic bids constantly highlight efficient transport, and are marketed as environmentally friendly, therefore we look forward to bicycle sharing stations at all the major sporting venues and a network of protected cycle lanes between each venue and the Olympic village. That's not too much to ask is it?

It will be interesting to see if Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Gate Bridge will be opened to cyclists during the games to ease overcrowding of public transport, and if that access will continue after the games have closed. (We suspect not on both counts.)


While the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are still far in the future please do continue to visit Tokyo By Bike for Olympic Cycling updates, and of course we'll be keeping an eye on developments around the city to see if they have a positive impact on cycling in Tokyo, or the opposite.

September 04, 2013

The existing National Stadium in Kasumigaoka, Shinjuku which was originally built for the 1964 Olympic Games is about to undergo a $1 billion redesign by British architecture firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, and will be reborn as a giant alien spacecraft or as we like to think of it, a huge bicycle helmet.  The stadium will play host to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and if Tokyo is successful in its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games it will also be the location for both the opening and closing ceremonies of the games along with the track and field events.


The redesigned stadium features a retractable roof, exceptional pedestrian access via elevated walkways and will have a seating capacity of 80,000.  Additional requirements  for the design of the stadium included that it fit with the existing surroundings of the area, and adhere to strict "environmental efficiency" constraints.


Judges commented that the design by Zaha Hadid compliments Tokyo's crowded cityscape with its sleek fluidity.

Born in Iraq, Hadid has previously designed the Aquatics Centre in London, used for the 2012 Olympics, and became the first female architect to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004.



Construction on the new national stadium is scheduled to begin in late 2015, shortly after the old stadium is torn down.


We love the look of the new stadium but only wish the proposed Olympic Velodrome had such a fitting design. What do you think of the new stadium design?

Update: Read what we know about cycling events and facilities for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

September 03, 2013

Tokyo is one of biggest, most densely populated cities in the world, and as a result a large portion of the population, myself included, live in multi-story apartments. Without a driveway, garden, even a garden hose, it begs the question: How do you wash your bicycle if you live in an apartment?

Giant mcm one bicycle in a Tokyo Park
In my single days I'd been known to wash my bikes in the shower while drinking beer, but now I've been promoted to responsible adult, not to mention married, father of two, I don't believe I can get away with that any more.

For years now I've been washing my bicycle on the balcony with a bucket of hot water, a brush and rag.  If the bicycle was particularly dirty I'd cart buckets of water from my 4th floor apartment (no elevator!) to the courtyard downstairs and wash the bike there which gets all kinds of strange looks from building residents.

There must be a better way. So I threw the question out to twitter. "Apartment dwellers, how do you wash/clean your bicycle?"

I received a response immediately "In the shower while drinking beer!", from a female no less!

Interestingly the bulk of the responses were along the lines of "On the balcony with a bucket of hot water, a brush and rag.", just like I've been doing all these years while thinking there must be a better way. Apparently there isn't.

Of all the responses I received, one did stand out in that it would solve the problem of carting buckets of water from the kitchen to my bike. Wash your bicycle at a local playground. Most playgrounds in Japan have running water, so armed with some Finish Line Super Bike Wash, a bucket, brush, rag and my bike that is just what I did over the weekend.

In addition to getting my bicycles all clean my daughters enjoyed a couple of hours playing in the park while I got the job done. A win for everyone!

Apartment dwellers how do you wash your bikes?

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