Over summer I had the pleasure of hosting a number of cycling infrastructure study tours around Tokyo, the largest of which consisted of 16 students from the University of Copenhagen.
sidewalks as they regard the roads as unsafe. Japanese cyclists also tend to ignore cycling laws instead relying on an unwritten understanding of how cyclists should behave.
Given all that it seems that cycling could not survive on Tokyo, one of the biggest and busiest mega-cities in the world, but it not only survives, it thrives. The only way to truly understand just how cycling works in Tokyo is to jump on a bicycle and try it for yourself.
During the course of the tour we cycled newly developed bicycle lanes on the islands of Tokyo Bay, along with new lanes along Shintora-dori near the new Toranamon Hills development. We cycled some sidewalk level bicycle lanes between Ueno and Asakusa and negotiates a particularly complicated intersection on some unprotected "blue paint" lanes in Odaiba. At one point on the tour we walked our bicycles over Tokyo's Raindbow Bridge which is an interesting experience in itself.
But to keep it real, and experience cycling from a locals point of view we often rode the sidewalks among the pedestrians, to which one of the tour participants remarked "I feel like a criminal, you can't cycle on the sidewalk in Denmark". When asked the rules for cycling on the sidewalk all I could offer was "Don't hit anyone." It wasn't long before the group were cycling like they'd lived here all their lives.
During the tour we observed how older parts of the city are much more walkable and cycleable than newly developed areas, and that backstreets offer a much better cycling experience not only in terms of traffic, but that they offer a lot more surprises and interesting experiences, yet unfortunately, in Tokyo, they're notoriously difficult to navigate.
The ride wasn't all work and no play as the route took in a number of sights such as the Odaiba waterfront, Tokyo Tower, Zozoji Temple, the Imperial Palace, Ginza and Asakusa.
After a full day of cycling the participants felt they had a better understanding of cycling in Tokyo but generally agreed that newly developed cycling lanes around the city are of substandard quality compared to those in Denmark, being much too narrow and disappearing at intersections allowing pedestrians and cyclists to mingle uncontrolled.
If you're visiting Tokyo and would like a better insight into just how cycling works in this amazing and unique city, would like to visit some of the newly developed bicycle infrastructure around the city and even take in some sights please do not hesitate to contact me.
September 02, 2014
Cycling Infrastructure Tours in Tokyo
Father of two, husband of one, lover of family, bicycles and running.
Urban Cycling Consultant, Tokyo By Bike.
Byron Kidd is the founder of the Tokyo By Bike website, writer, experienced urban cyclist, and expert on cycling in the staggering metropolis of Tokyo.
Working with NPO's and cycling activists to improve cycling infrastructure in Japan, Byron also operates internationally via a vast network of renowned urban mobility experts to promote Japanese cycling culture, and demonstrate how everyday cycling can work in megacities around the world. No city is too big for the bicycle.
Day Job, Software Developer.
Writing code and stuff, for games and things.