The Tour de Holland to Flanders, Belgium, in Tokyo

The Tour de Holland to Flanders, Belgium, in Tokyo is an annual cycling event hosted by The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions, VISITFLANDERS and the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in cooperation with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and he Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium.

Photo by E. Dronkert

On April 12, 2015, participants will gather at the Netherlands Embassy for coffee and a small bite to eat before setting off in small groups from 9:30am on a 13km guided bicycle ride through the streets of Tokyo. The route will take them past many of Tokyo's most well known attractions including Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace East Gardens and Tokyo Station before completing their journey at the Belgium Embassy.

After collecting stamps at designated stops along the route participants will have the chance to win tickets for two from Tokyo, Osaka or Fukuoka to Amsterdam flying with ride sponsor KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

The Tour de Holland to Flanders, Belgium, in Tokyo was first held in 2013 to increase awareness of Dutch and Belgian cycling cultures in Japan and to encourage bicycle lovers to travel to the two countries, since then it has become an annual event of cultural exchange.

An event for lovers of bicycles bicycle culture this ride presents participants with a wonderful opportunity to meet likeminded cyclists from around the world to share stories and make new friends.

The ride is limited to just 300 participants and costs ¥4,000 for adults and ¥1,000 for children under 15 with pre-registration from February 1st until March 20th via the Sports Entry website.



M204 MonkeyLight Review

As someone who cycles home in the dark every single workday of the year I'm always on the lookout for a good bicycle light, but bicycle lights can be boring and sometimes I want more than simple functionality, sometimes I want to add some fun to my rides.  Lucky for me MonkeyLetric make such a fun light and they were kind enough to send me their latest light the enticingly named "M204 Bike Wheel Light" for review. With a name like that how could I refuse!

For those of you not "in the know" Monkey Lights are multicoloured led lights mounted to your spokes that produce colourful patterns and even pictures by rapidly switching on and off as your wheel spins.

I've had my eye on the top of the range, 32 LED, M232 MonkeyLight for a long time now but some things have always put me off purchasing one. The first concern I had was how well it would stand up to the elements as my bicycle spends a lot of time parked outside in the weather. I'd hate to buy one only to have it die after a shower of rain.  My second concern was the lights sheer size as I often leave my commuter bicycle in public parking where people tend to be less than careful about knocking over or damaging other peoples bicycles. I could see my lovely new spoke light being destroyed within a few days of use.

Based on these concerns I've always looked upon MonkeyLights from afar with yearning. But all that changed with the release of the M204. Its a full colour, 40 Lumen 4 led spoke light with 5 pre-programmed themes. Much smaller than its cousin the M232, this light mounts between two spokes close to your rim, while he battery pack mounts around your hub.

The installation instructions were easy to follow with clear diagrams and text in 1000 different languages. But even better than the written instructions is an instructional video on YouTube in which a lady with well manicured nails wearing a black dress demonstrates just how easy the Monkey Light is to install. So After viewing the video and doing my nails I slipped into a black dress of my own and set about the task of installing the light. It was hardly a task worthy of getting all dressed up for as it was extremely straightforward and took less than 10 minutes.

The entire contraption is held on the wheel by zip ties. I admittedly had doubts about this, but after almost three months of riding with the MonkeyLight I've not once been the least concerned about the light or battery pack coming loose.

As for performance, its really hard to see the patterns your lights are making as you pedal at speed leaning over your handlebars staring down at your front wheel. (Don't try this at home!) Yet the pointing, comments and shouts from the people I pass by indicate that I've certainly garnered some positive attention. While you may believe that this light improves side visibility only, the 40 lumen LED's are insanely bright, so much so that they project light down to the road 360 degrees around your wheel, not to mention that they are also capable of lighting up the general area around you.  This makes the MonkeyLight M204 more than just a light for showboating fools like myself, but one that is also perfect for the safety conscious showboating fools as well.

In general I've been very pleased with the light over the months I've been using it. It certainly gets plenty of attention and when your aim is to be seen that's exactly what you want. I've been parking in the elements and the wilds of Japanese public bicycle parking and have not had a single problem with the light and to be honest I held off writing this review until I had a chance to the M204 through months of real world cycling.

I give the M204 MonkeyLight many thumbs up an would recommend it to anyone who wants to add some fun to their rides.



Cyclists in Japan: Two strikes and you're out!

Under a legal revision to take effect in Japan on June 1 (2015) cyclists who violate the Road Traffic Act or cause accidents may have to undergo retraining. The Cabinet decided on Tuesday to approve the amendment to the road traffic act after an apparent rise in accidents involving cyclists resulting in serious injury and death.

Lawmakers believe the amendment will make roads and sidewalks safer by handing out harsher penalties including on the spot fines and the unusual practise of forcing cyclists charged with two traffic violations within a period of three years to attend a three hour retraining course, the contents of which has yet to be announced.

The National Police Agency say their figures indicate that hundreds of cyclists would meet this criteria each year. They indicate that under the new amendment police officers who witness a traffic violation may stop and deliver a warning to cyclists and if the individual fails to obey a ticket will be issued.

The NPA said that of 10,434 bicycle related accidents in 2003 61 were fatal. In 2013 there was a significant drop in incidents which stood at 8,141 but deaths rose to 93 and it is this that prompted the changes they announced on Tuesday.

Move along nothing to see here. Cycle on as usual, absolutely nothing is about to change.

These announcements are made again and again to no effect other than an initial short lived  burst in police enthusiasm.

Police officers in Japan have always been reluctant to uniformly enforce cycling laws, choosing to do so only after an accident has occurred, or in cases where a cyclist is clearly being an extremely dangerous menace.  Tuesdays announcement made that clear when an NPA official said that cyclists will be penalised for causing an accident while talking on a mobile phone.  The key words in that phrase are "causing an accident". Cycle while looking a your mobile as much as you like, just put it away when an officer goes out of his way to "warn" you and don't cause an accident. In effect its the status quo, very little, if anything changes with this legal amendment.

Besides this obvious fact I have a number of issues with the statement issued on Tuesday, not the least of which is the official belief that harsher penalties will make roads safer. The only thing that will make Japan's roads safer is well planned cycling infrastructure, removing cyclists from the sidewalks and separating them physically from motor vehicles. Harsher penalties will simply reduce cyclist numbers resulting in a larger inactive section of the public developing health problems and putting an even larger strain on the public health system, there I said it.

Speaking of harsher penalties, two offences in 3 years and a cyclist is forced to attend a there hour retraining course? Two motoring offences in three years and the worst you face is a fine. I find it hard to believe police claims that "hundreds of cyclists would meet this criteria each year" and unless police get serious about enforcing cycling laws there will not be enough demand to keep the retraining courses open. Alternatively if police did actually begin penalising every single offence there would be an 18 month waiting list to attend retraining!

Semantically speaking its impossible to send cyclists to retraining courses anyway as they've never been trained in the first place and by not enforcing cycling laws for decades police have handed responsibility for public safety to the public who have developed their own unwritten code around cycling which accepts sidewalk cycling and riding while holding an umbrella.

But please ignore my my concerns, just as these amendments to the Road Traffic Act will be ignored in a mere couple of days time.

Move along, nothing to see here.



Japan's Cycling Seniors

As a cycling advocate in the city of Tokyo I feel a sense of pride and happiness every time I notice elderly people getting around by bicycle. I love the fact that cycling is such an integral part of peoples lifestyles and that the bicycle plays such an important role in making life easier for everyone, most of all the elderly.
A spritely young lady out doing some shopping by bicycle.

Elderly Japanese who have relied on the bicycle as one of the main forms of transport in their daily lives are reaping a host of rewards some well documented and well known, others more obscure and less tangible.

Physical Health Benefits

By cycling every day, to do the shopping, visit friends, or to the station to venture even further a field, elderly Japanese cyclists are adding years to their lives without even trying because cycling brings with it innumerable health benefits. Cycling is known to increase cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, flexibility, it reduces body fat, strengthens bones, improves joint mobility and prevents disease.

More specific to the elderly, cycling improves strength, balance and coordination, which helps in preventing falls and fractures. Cycling maintains healthy levels of blood pressure, and being low impact it is the perfect form of exercise for those suffering from osteoarthritis.

Recent studies have shown that regular cycling keeps you younger with researchers from King’s College London and the University of Birmingham discovering that cyclists over the age of 55 "had levels of physiological function that would place them at a much younger age compared to the general population."

Mental Health Benefits

Elderly people who cycle also reap great mental health benefits. Cycling reduces depression, stress and anxiety, not only due to the effects of the exercise, but also from the simple pleasure riding a bicycle can bring.

A recent study by Professor Art Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, concluded that walking or cycling regularly for between six months to a year can improve memory and problem solving skills in the elderly by between 15 and 20 per cent.  The simple act of walking or cycling for up to 45 minutes each day has been shown to increase cognitive function in children and the elderly while regular exercise is seen as essential to combat memory loss in old age.

Japanese bicycle manufacturer Bridgestone make a range of bicycles for the senior market.

Social Benefits

Closely tied to maintaining the mental health of elderly Japanese cyclists are the numerous social benefits that utilitarian cycling bring. Elderly people who cycle are much less likely to be housebound than their non-cycling counterparts, being less dependant on caregivers for transport gives the elderly their independence, the ability to go where they like whenever they like.

Tokyo's small self contained neighbourhoods ensure everything an elderly resident needs for daily life is just a short walk or ride away allowing them to maintain control over their lives, the powerful positive mental benefit of which should not be overlooked. Being able to escape the confines of their homes and travel afar by bicycle presents the elderly with numerous opportunities for social interaction they would otherwise not be exposed to, all of which keep the mind healthy.

Communities in which large numbers of people walk or cycle present even more benefits to the elderly. Pedestrians and cyclists are more likely to assist an elderly person who is in trouble than motorists who choose to simply pass on by detached from their surroundings. Something as simple as a smile, or greeting from a stranger on the street can have an unmeasurable positive effect on a persons well being. Also communities with high levels of street life tend to look out for other members of their community providing the elderly with an extra level of unobtrusive care.

Japan's Yakult, maker of pro biotic drinks, employ over 41,000 women to deliver their products to homes and offices by bicycle each day. As a large percentage of their customers are the elderly living alone, the Yakult ladies perform another important service for the community, that of looking in on the elderly on a regular basis, an important job no government department has been tasked with, nor wants responsibility for. The Yakult ladies on their bicycles know intimate details of the health and well being of their elderly customers, assist them with small tasks, advise them on day to day matters, and perform countless other (unpaid) services unrelated to the company's core business.

As Japan's population ages many municipalities have been tackling the problem of how to keep the elderly engaged with society, creating "Silver Centres" that work to keep the elderly contributing to their local communities in return giving them important social interactions which increase their quality of life. One such program is the Suginami Green Cycle initiative in which elderly residents gather regularly to repair bicycles that have been collected from around the city for resale. For many of Japan's elderly men who slaved unrelentingly through their work years this is the first opportunity they've had to establish real and lasting friendships.

Supporting Elderly Cyclists

It is unquestionable that cycling improves the health and quality of life of the elderly in Japan and this must be supported. Urban designers must work to ensure that the roads, paths and even sidewalks are safe for the elderly to cycle. They must also continue to plan communities in which all life's necessities including supermarkets, schools, community centres, hospitals and clinics are all within easy walking and cycling distance to encourage active modes of transport not only among the elderly, but for us all.
Bridgestone Tricycle for elderly shoppers.
Businesses must provide convenient parking within short walking distances of their stores. Designers of residences for the elderly must provide easily accessible, secure undercover parking with gentle slopes and handrails. Bicycle manufacturers must continue to innovate and develop bicycles targeted towards the elderly market, stable bicycles with low centres of gravity, tricycles with baskets capable of holding a days grocery shopping, and electric assist bicycles will go a long way to ensuring the elderly of Japan continue to cycle and as a result remain both physically and mentally healthy and remain engaged with their communities.

Economically active and healthy cycling seniors place less of a burden on the national health system and as a result the Government of Japan should be encouraging and supporting everyday cycling on the national level as they've been reaping its rewards for decades while contributing next to nothing to safe cycling infrastructure for cyclists both young and old.

In conclusion, elderly Japanese cyclists have enjoyed improved mental and physical health through a lifetime of everyday or utilitarian cycling and it is these health benefits that keep them cycling later into their lives, only to reap even greater health rewards. If you ask the people of Japan why they cycle every day very few would answer that it is for health, environmental, or economic benefits as most cycle because it is the most convenient form of transport available. Therefore we need to raise awareness of the ALL benefits of cycling among the people and policy makers of Japan so they realise cycling as a practise that generally goes unnoticed is providing HUGE benefits for all levels of society and that it must be supported and encouraged.



Where can I rent a bicycle in Tokyo?

As a visitor to Tokyo renting a bicycle can be a difficult affair. Given the lack of a convenient city wide bicycle sharing system such as London's Barclays Cycle Hire or the extensive Velib network in Paris tourists are often left to on their own to locate bicycle rental services, and the lack of information in English and other languages makes this a daunting task.

Given that bicycle rental businesses in Tokyo appear and disappear at an astonishing rate I have attempted to list some of the longer running, and less likely to go out of business, bicycle rental services below.

Docomo Community Cycle

By far the most extensive bicycle sharing network in Tokyo is the Docomo Community Cycle Sharing network currently in operation in three wards around Tokyo (Koto-Ku, Chiyoda-ku, Minato-ku) but also in Yokohama and Sendai.

Visitors to the city can use the small wheeled electric bicycles by purchasing a one-day pass and bicycles can be returned on any of the numerous ports in each ward.

Docomo Community Cycle operates from three wards in Tokyo, Yokohama and Sendai.

Sharing stations in Koto-ku cover the Tokyo Bay waterfront area of Odaiba, a popular tourist destination with wide easy to cycle paths, and home to some of Tokyo's newest cycling infrastructure.

The Chiyoda-ku bicycle sharing stations are conveniently located around the beautiful Imperial Palace Gardens, near Tokyo Station, and the ever popular Akihabara shopping district while Minato-ku bike share stations cover Shinagawa, Roppongi and popular tourist destinatons such as Tokyo Tower, Roppongi Hill and Tokyp Midtown.


COGICOGI is a small but well established bicycle sharing system with numerous ports in the Shibuya and Harajuku districts. Recently the service has expanded to cover the Tokyo Skytree area. Membership is required and their small wheeled, electric assist bicycles can be picked up and dropped off at any of the networks bicycle sharing ports. The COGICOGI service operates from 10:00 to 19:00 daily with last rental at 18:00. Membership is required and can be arranged online.

Phone: 080-0170-5959

Extremo Mountain Bike Rentals

Located in Sumida-ku and offering a bicycle delivery and pick up service to hotels within the Yamanote Line Extremo Mountain Bike Rentals rent reliable brand name mountain bikes for ¥3000, per day, ¥1300 per extra day, and ¥9300 for an entire week. Reservations and ID required.

Phone: 03-5610-0638

Rin Project

Rin Project in Taito-ku is a friendly bicycle store that rents exceptionally well loved bicycles to locals and tourists alike, for ¥1080 pre day (plus a ¥540 accident insurance fee). With just 5 bicycles available for hire making a reservation is highly recommended. Opening hours are 11:00 to 18:00 with last rental at 17:00.

Homepage: Rin Project

Rin Project Rental Bicycle

GS Astuto Road Bike Rentals Tokyo

If you're in Tokyo looking to continue your road or triathlon training then look no further then look n further than GS Astuto Road Bike Rentals. GS Astuto have both carbon frame road bicycles and wheel sets for hire. After a recent move GS Astuto is now a 30 minute train ride from Shinjuku station, but this shouldn't phase anyone who doesn't want to interrupt their training while in Japan. Rates available upon request.

Tobu Pro Rental Cycle Asakusabashi

In Asakusabashi short ride from the popular Asakusa Temple District is Tobu Pro Rental Cycle whose friendly staff rent both small wheel and regular size mamachari for just ¥200 per day, plus a one time ¥500 registration fee. Opening hours 07:00 to 20:00.

Renting a bicycle here will put you within easy cycling distance of Asakusa, Ueno, the Sumo Stadium at Ryogoku and even the districts of Marunouchi and Ginza.

I've personally used Tobu Pro Rental Cycle Asakusabashi when organising Tokyo Cycling Infrastructure Tours and highly recommend them due to their flawless customer care and service.
Phone: 03-0866-1818

Katushika Shibamata Tora-san Museum Bicycle Rental

Located conveniently close to the Edogawa cycling road and numerous parks and gardens the Katushika Shibamata Tora-san Museum rents mamachari style bicycles for just ¥400 per day.

Phone: 03-3657-3455

Ward Offices

Tokyo is made up of 23 distinct council controlled regions most of which offer some form of bicycle rental via their City Hall. Information about these services is provided almost exclusively in Japanese via the City Office website, but as reservations are rarely required once you've located the pick up point renting a bicycle is rarely a difficult affair.

Taito-ku Rent-a-Cycle
Open daily from 6:00 until 20:00 at four convenient locations their mamachari style bicycles can b hired for just ¥300 per day.

Phone: 03-5246-1305

Setagaya City Rental Cycle
With 7 convenient port locations around Setagaya-ku, the largest of Tokyo's 23 wards, and a mix of electric assist and conventional bicycles and even bicycles with child seats Setagaya City Rental Cycle has something for everyone.

Phone: 03-3425-7195

Nerima Town Cycle
Nerima Town Cycle has 7 ports located close to major train stations around Nerima-ku and bicycles can be rented for as little as ¥200 per day. Unfortunately in addition to ID th service asks for proof of residence meaning the system is closed to those who do not live in Nerima Ward. I guess they're working on a different definition of bicycle "sharing" than the rest of us.

Phone: 03-5984-1032

Edogawa-ku Rental Cycle
The City owned Edogawa-ku Rental Cycle has mamachari style bicycles available for just ¥210 per day at 11 conveniently located sharing stations, including one close to the scenic Kasai Rinkai Koen and Arakawa River cycling course.

Phone: 03-5662-1997