Tokyo Governor Explains His Vision for Cycling in the City

At a press conference held on August 29 Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe responded to questions regarding his vision for cycling in Tokyo in the lead up to the 2020 Olympics. His answers were interesting to say the least.

In principal the Governor supports the installation of street level bicycle lanes, over sidewalk level lanes and is committed to expanding Tokyo's network of bicycle lanes across the city. This sounds like wonderful news until he elaborated on his answer.

During his elaboration things became a lot less clear as he indicated that Tokyo's widely accepted practice of sidewalk cycling would not be stamped out even in areas where bicycle lanes are widespread. In particular he singled out mothers who carry one or more children on their bicycle who may not be comfortable cycling on the roads may prefer to cycle on the sidewalks which he described as "safer".

Defending this stance he expanded by saying that he believes that forcing roadies, bicycle commuters (both of whom make up a tiny percentage of Tokyo's cyclists), the elderly and mothers (who account for a much larger percentage) to mix is a bad idea.

He acknowledged that the common practice of cycling in both directions on the sidewalk is a dangerous but is one so common that to prevent it would make cycling a much less convenient form of transport for all.

By allowing sidewalk cycling to continue in the presence of new bicycle lanes one must ask just how committed Tokyo's Governor is to providing safe, world class, cycling infrastructure?

From the very beginning Masuzoe admits that he plans to build bicycle lanes which he himself believes will be too unsafe to accommodate mothers and children.  A bicycle lane too unsafe for mothers and children is by its very nature too unsafe to accommodate anyone. Why waste taxpayers money on infrastructure he acknowledges is flawed from the start?

The Governor has also fallen into the trap of trying to accommodate the needs of everyone over the needs of the majority. The majority of Japanese cyclists are "regular people" riding mamachari's on the sidewalks at speeds less than 30km/h for distances of less than 2km each trip, compared to these cyclists the roadies, mountain bikers and bicycle commuters make up just a small percentage of the total number of cyclists.

Masuzoe really should be focusing on the needs of the majority as in the press conference he acknowledged Japan's ageing population and declining birth rate will eventually mean less mothers and more elderly cyclists, yet his policy seems to be to provide lanes (which I assume will be little more than blue paint on the roadway) for young, active and fearless cyclists (of whom there are few) while allowing everyone else, including mothers and the elderly to continue cycling on the sidewalks. As a result his proposed cycling infrastructure will do little to change the current situation.

If Governor Masuzoe is not fully committed to protected road level bicycle lanes which are safe enough for everyone in the community to cycle in, he is not committed to cycling in Tokyo.

Personally I believe Masuzoe's policy needs a rethink.


Bicycle Chambara at Pedal Day Tokyo

One of the Night Pedal Cruising crews contributions to the Pedal Day 2014 festivities in Tokyo on August 18 was the organisation of the Bicycle Chambara event. So what exactly is Bicycle Chambara?

 The rules are simple. Ten combatants, er.. I mean contestants, are each given a rolled up newspaper and strap a stylish paper balloon to their heads. They line up around the edges of an arena of arbitrary size and when the whistle blows their objective is to try and smash their opponent's balloons while protecting their own. The winner is the last person with an intact balloon.

There could be other rules if you're that way inclined, such as the "out of bounds" rule which disqualifies a rider if they somehow exit the arena, you could also disqualify a rider for touching the ground with their feet, but in the interest of good fun and entertainment we like to keep the rules to a minimum, like professional wrestling if you will.

It wasn't planned but as one event dragged on with no clear winner the previously disqualified riders began reducing the size of the arena by slowly moving the witches hats inwards, hemming in the remaining contestants and forcing them to confront each other rather than run for cover. As a rule I believe this works.

This was my first time to try Bicycle Chambara and it was incredibly good fun, but a lot more difficult than it looked given my limited reach and general aversion to crashing into other cyclists.

To drum up spectator support we spent the first few minutes of our match in pro wrestler mode, showboating, name calling, bell ringing and generally messing about, then without words we decided the match was on in earnest.  I like to think I put up a good fight, but getting knocked out in the latter half of the match by a guy on a huge heavy delivery bike really hurt my pride until I found out he was a professional BMX rider here to perform for the crowd later in the night.

I must say Bicycle Chambara is a great sport and you all must try it with a set of rules that work for you (or not), and is immensely satisfying for spectators as its as close as you'll get to gladiators and chariots in the modern day.

I can't wait until this debuts at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020!

What other kinds of games have you played with friends on your bicycles?


night pedal cruising

Nude Pedal Cruising Midnight 2014

To celebrate Tokyo's annual Pedal Day festivities, which will be taking place August 16, 17 and 18th, the Night Pedal Cruising crew are hosting yet another all night "nude" ride through Tokyo. Yes its time for Nude Pedal Cruising Midnight 2014!!

Riders will meet on Saturday evening (August 16) at 11:00pm near NHK Hall in Yoyogi Park for a midnight start before setting off on an all night ride which will end at Wakasu Seaside Park in Shin Kiba where we will watch the sunrise over Tokyo Bay.

The route will wind through the streets of Tokyo travelling at a leisurely pace through Shibuya, Shinjuku, Aoyama, Roppongi, Tokyo Tower, Shiba Park, Ginza, and Harumi before ending up at the Wakasu Seaside Park.

As with all Night Pedal Cruising the pace is slow while the company and conversation is great.

Bring a sound system, decorate your bike with lights or whatever you can find and join Tokyo's one and only bike party.

While the ride is billed as being a "nude" ride, under fear of arrest it will be a semi-clothed ride, but cyclists of all state of undress are welcome. You're not obligated to strip off, but we'll demand you have a great time!

Read the full details of the ride here and don't forget to visit us at Pedal Day in Tokyo this weekend.

If you want to know what goes on at one of these rides read my Nude Pedal Cruising Ride Report from last years event.


Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge By Bike

Wouldn't it be great if you could cycle over Tokyo's iconic Rainbow Bridge?  Well I'm sorry you can't.

Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge by Bicycle
On Sunday I was out making an early morning  pre-riding the course for my upcoming guided study tour of Tokyo's cycling infrastructure. I had cycled over the bridges of Harumi Dori, island hopping Tokyo Bay to the Seaside Park in Odaiba where I stopped for a refreshing drink and photo opportunity.
My plan was to take to Water Taxi from Odaiba Seaside Park to Hinode Pier and from there head to Shiba Park at the foot of Tokyo Tower, but to my surprise the first ferry was scheduled to leave at 11:30am, another two and a half hours in the future. This left me with two choices, cycle a big circle back over the Harumi Dori route and loop back to Tokyo Tower, or to walk Rainbow Bridge with my bicycle.

Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge by Bicycle
I'd heard you could walk your bike over Rainbow Bridge but in all my years living here I'd never actually tried it but being just 798m in length with a main span of 580m walking the bridge would certainly be the fastest and most direct route to my destination. So I set off in search of the entrance to the walkway.

I found the entrance with no trouble and began walking my bicycle up a ramp towards what appeared to be a toll booth.  Walking the bridge is free and you are indeed allowed to push your bicycle across, but in order to prevent you from riding the guys in the booth attach what can only be described as a "roller skate" to your rear wheel.

Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge by Bicycle
The "skate" can easily be removed allowing you to cycle the bridge and sneakily reattach it before you reach the checkpoint on the other side but any sensible person would realise the bridge was never designed for cycling and cycling would be dangerous for both rider and pedestrians. The path is narrow the railing is low, and there are countless blind corners that really do rule out cycling across.

With my roller skate attached I set off over the bridge via the north walkway which gave spectacular views of both Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Sky Tree no to mention the Tokyo skyline itself and back over the island of Tokyo Bay where work has already begun on the venues for the 2020 Olympics.

Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge by Bicycle
The walk was surprisingly short, and at the end I was required to take an elevator down to a much welcome air conditioned lobby where I could quench my thirst from the nearby vending machine. After my drink I reluctantly left the air conditioned comfort to take a couple of ramps down to the booth where my roller skate was removed and I was free to continue my journey in a more dignified manner.

Walking Rainbow Bridge certainly is a unique experience and while you can't cycle it I certainly recommend the route for cyclists looking for another way off the islands of Tokyo by. I'm really glad I walked the bridge and will never took at Rainbow Bridge in quite the same way again.

Rainbow Bridge is open to pedestrians from 9am until 9pm in the summer and 10am to 6pm in the winter. Access to the walkway is closed 30 minutes before closing time.