April 19, 2014

Its no secret that I love bicycles but long past are the days when I'd buy magazines to drool over the latest, lightest and fastest bikes on the market. These days I'm more sedate, I'm less interested in speed and more interested in style. I like to read about people who ride bicycles, real people, not elite athletes.


I draw inspiration from reading about how people have turned their passion for bicycles into thriving businesses, I love learning about the innovative ways in which bicycles are being used, and how bicycles are becoming an essential form of transport for millions in cities around the world. I enjoy stories about how the bicycle has influenced people who do not necessarily consider themselves "cyclists" such as artists, photographers, designers and performers.

Surely there is no magazine that caters to my tastes.

Well there is, and its called Treadlie, which  describes itself as : 

A magazine is for bike lovers, would be bike lovers and those that appreciate great bike design – a magazine devoted to culture, fashion and design.

Featuring people and their bikes, bike businesses, cycling cities, bike travel and a toolkit section profiling the latest in bike accessories, art and design.

I actually pulled that description from the Treadlie homepage after I wrote the first two paragraphs, and while my writing was much more wordy, what I want from a magazine and what Treadlie provides is an uncanny match.


Treadlie is one of those rare magazines that I read from cover to cover rather that flipping backwards and forwards cherry picking the most interesting looking articles. All articles in Treadlie are of equally high quality as is the photography so that reading from cover to cover makes perfect sense ensures you don't miss a single word or amazing photograph.

While Treadlie is published in Melbourne it is certainly not Australia centric.  New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, cities from around the world get equal coverage in Treadlie.


To get the magazine to as many people at the lowest price possible you can now subscribe to Treadlie on your iPad and Kindle. Of course if you prefer a good old fashioned paper copy of Treadlie you can subscribe here.

I'm sure if you're a regular reader of Tokyo By Bike you'll thoroughly enjoy Treadlie and I encourage you to subscribe.










April 15, 2014

A lot has been written about the benefits of bicycle commuting that bicycle commuters experience, but did you know there are many benefits for employers as well?

Bicycle commuters are in general happier and healthier, they arrive at the office less stressed, pumped up on endorphins, alert, aware, in a great mood and are ready to begin the day. By the time a regular employee arrives at the office they've spent hours in traffic, or crammed into overstuffed commuter trains. They arrive at work tired, stressed, in a negative mood and feeling like they've put in a full day's work just getting to the office. They're demoralised even before their work day begins while the perky bicycle commuters hit the ground running.

Cycling employees are healthy employees who take less sick days not only due to the health benefits of cycling itself but also from not picking up a cold, flu or virus while sharing public transport with thousands of unwell travellers, particularly in the winter where trains are nothing but mobile disease dispensers. Sick employees can be bad for business not only due to the time they take from work, but also because there is a risk they will pass on a virus to fellow workers and before you know it half the office is off sick. Cycling employees are not only healthy themselves, but promote a healthier workplace resulting in fewer sick days among all employees.

Mentally bicycle commuters are less stressed than their public transport taking and driving co-workers. Personally I find that cycling to and from work gives me a clear buffer between home time and work time whereas when I take public transport I'm on work time from the moment I step out the door. For me the very act of cycling is enjoyable and puts me in a positive frame of mind, and having to concentrate on the cars, cyclist and pedestrians around me gives me less time to stress about what awaits me at work when I arrive or the following day. When taking the train, with little else to occupy my mind, I find myself thinking about work, worrying about deadlines and stressing about meetings, that can't be healthy. For the duration of the commute a cyclists mind freed from the worries of work making them happier, less stressed and ultimately more productive.

Bicycle commuters are more punctual. Bicycle commuters aren't restrained by traffic jams, nor are they affected by train delays meaning they arrive at work on time regardless of the condition of the transport networks their co-workers rely upon. Recently in the aftermath of a typhoon in Tokyo train services were delayed for an entire day. By cycling to work I arrived on time while co-workers were filing in up to 4 or 5 hours late due to transport delays. I arrived with a smile on my face and put in a solid days work (achieving even more without constant interruptions!), while colleagues arrive late, tired and in terrible moods having spent the last 4 hours battling over crowded public transport. What about mechanical delays you may ask? A well maintained bicycle with puncture proof tyres is a lot more reliable than both traffic and weather forecasts!


While we don't want to work ourselves to death there are times we must work late, or irregular hours. In Japan where the train service stops between 12:30am and 5:00am (roughly) allowing employees to cycle to work means we can come to and from work during the hours when public transport is not operating if needed, without the expense of providing a taxi or car.

Finally, the cost of providing parking for employees who drive or shuttle buses for employees who rely upon public transport can be immense. Although bicycle commuters will need facilities of their own the cost is minuscule compared to that of providing adequate parking facilities or shuttle bus services for all employees.

Not all of the benefits of bicycle commuting are easily measured financially, but it should be plainly obvious that happy, healthy, stress free bicycle commuting employees are more productive and will have a positive impact not only on profits, but will also contribute to a healthier and happier workplace.

Of course these benefits do not come to businesses without a price, as bicycle commuters will require, even demand, facilities which we will investigate in the next article on this topic.

April 10, 2014

In 2013 Scottish Government launched a widely lambasted bicycle safety campaign called the Nice Way Code, the central premise of which was to promote bicycle safety by calling for mutual respect between cyclists and motorists. In September 2013 after wide criticism the campaign was scrapped.

The campaign was blasted for many faults including pandering to stereotypes, victim blaming, having no clear goals, and failing to coordinate with other road safety bodies and planning initiatives. The details of all the perceived faults of the campaign are too numerous to get into, but I'd like to know is it really too much for society to expect motorists and cyclists to show a little respect for each other?

In Tokyo one of the biggest, busiest and most populated metropolises in the world, cycling holds a respectable 16% modal share yet cycling infrastructure is severely lacking and cycling lanes barely exist. In addition to this cycling laws are poorly understood by the public and inconsistently enforced by the police. In short cycling should be a disaster in this city yet it thrives with none of the infrastructure of world leading European countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark.

I've written before about the ingredients that when mixed together create an environment where cycling thrives without planning and infrastructure. The compact neighbourhoods, the expense and inconvenience of private car ownership, the exceptional public transport, the lax enforcement of cycling laws, these all contribute to high cyclist numbers in Tokyo and around Japan.

But the biggest factor in making cycling work in Japan is the attitude of the Japanese people.

Historically in the tiny, overpopulated islands of Japan people have learnt how to share spaces. In many smaller Japanese homes a single room may be used for eating, sleeping, working and relaxing so the idea that a single space can have multiple uses is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. This ingrained notion of shared space translates to public spaces including parks, roads and sidewalks.

Drivers in Tokyo are used to sharing narrow roads with both cyclists and pedestrians as many smaller streets lack even sidewalks. In addition to this most drivers also cycle which means they drive around cyclists as they'd expect other motorists to drive around them. Cyclists are, of course, also pedestrians and thus when cycling on the sidewalks they generally show respect for fellow cyclists and pedestrians. Watching cars, cyclists and pedestrians interact in Japanese cities may appear to be complete anarchy, but it is a polite form of anarchy in which most people subconsciously strive not to have a negative impact on the people around them.

Without meaning to overgeneralise (and I am) it is the Japanese peoples attitude of mutual respect and flexibility when it comes to sharing spaces which makes cycling work here despite the lack of infrastructure. Imagine for a moment every Japanese person was suddenly a New Yorker, cycling would become extinct overnight!

So while Japan has no official Nice Way Code campaign, each individual has their own internal code of conduct, based on sharing the road and tolerance for each other, because you can't cycle in a city with 14 million others without exercising a little patience. This highlights a startling cultural difference, and teaches us that cycling initiatives that work well in one country will not necessarily be accepted in another.

When seeking ideas to improve conditions for cyclists in your area it is worth remembering that what works in one city or country may not necessarily work in another. Unfortunately in the case of the Nice Way Code the Japanese notion of "Wa", harmony and keeping the peace, did not translate well into the Scottish environment, its a shame.

April 08, 2014

I have a love hate relationship with sidewalk cycling in Japan. On one hand I hate the fact that cycling infrastructure is so poor that cyclists have to resort to cycling on pedestrian walkways. But given that, I love the fact that everyone is free to choose to cycle where they feel comfortable, yet hate it that some cyclists endanger pedestrians when cycling on the sidewalks.

Love or hate sidewalk cycling in Japan, you have to understand that given the lack of cycling lanes it is the acceptance of sidewalk cycling which has allowed cyclists numbers to remain so high in Japan and that until infrastructure is improved sidewalk cyclists will not go away.

I recently wrote a more detailed piece on sidewalk cycling in Japan for Metropolis Magazine here in Tokyo entitled "Sidewalk Circus: The bustling walkways of Tokyo are no places for cyclists - or are they?" and encourage you to take the time to read it online.

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