November 07, 2014

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced this week that it aims to encourage more people to cycle and that it will double the length of bike lanes in the city before the 2020 Summer Olympics. As always they released no details of exactly how they expected to achieve this.

It turns out that creating a network of bicycle lanes may be easier said than done as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government regulates just 2,000 km of roads in the capital with the remaining 20,000 km being regulated by municipal governments such as wards, cities and towns. Many observers believe the Governments vision is doomed to failure as it has already been stated that the planned bicycle lanes will not be contiguous. They will start and end when a road becomes the responsibility of a different authority. Not only that but each authority has its own standards for cycling infrastructure meaning there will be no consistency in lanes around the city.

As we know Tokyo's Governor Yoichi Masuzoe is fresh back from a visit to London where he met with Mayor Boris Johnson and examined the city’s Olympic legacy noting that the city’s roads were “narrow and very similar to those in Tokyo,” making London a useful reference. An interesting reference indeed but I fail to understand why the Governor of Tokyo, a city in which cycling enjoys a 14% modal share, is looking towards London, with its modal share of just 2%, for inspiration regarding the use of bicycles for transport.



Has Governor Masuzoe not heard of The Netherlands and Denmark? Is he not even aware how citizens of Tokyo already rely on the bicycle for transport in their daily lives? Why is he not the one giving advice to London? If you're going to get advice on cycling from another city at least pick a city that does cycling better than your own, not worse.

It is wonderful that the 2020 Olympics has raised the issue of cycling infrastructure to a national level, but until Japan's leaders understand the widespread use of bicycles and the needs of cyclists in their own country I believe it is fruitless to go looking for ideas from overseas.

In addition to this I have come to believe that cycling infrastructure for the Olympics and cycling infrastructure for the people are two separate issues and should be treated as such.

Once again this appears to be a case of politicians racing around to fulfil an agenda with little understanding of the issues, and next to no public consultation. It is sad so see such a chance to make a positive difference potentially go to waste.

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