Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe announced last week that the heads of the four central Tokyo wards of Chiyoda, Minato, Chuo and Koto have reached an agreement which will finally see their, until now illogically separate, bicycle sharing programs integrated. Beginning in 2012 each of the wards have gone about individually implementing their own bicycle sharing systems in cooperation with NTT DoCoMo yet until now each of these systems had been independent.
Until this announcement it had been impossible to borrow a bicycle in one ward and return it to another. Anyone wishing to do so would have to pay for separate memberships in each of the wards and change bicycles at the border, rendering the entire system comically useless compared to the city wide bicycle sharing schemes of Paris, London and New York. Under this new agreement bicycle share users will finally have the freedom to travel between wards without the need for multiple memberships or changing bicycles.
But now Governor Masuzoe must turn his attention to an even more difficult problem as the autonomy of Tokyo's wards is also taking its toll on city wide cycling infrastructure.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is responsible for just 2,000km of Tokyo's public roads, with the remaining 18,000km under the control of local governments. Each local government has their own standards and policies for cycling infrastructure with some championing protected bicycle lanes while others opt for blue paint, or sidewalk level bicycle lanes.
In addition to this the Governors plans for a city wide network of bicycle lanes before the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are also hampered by the fact that a lack of coordination between local governments means that while they may be working hard to improve cycling infrastructure in their individual wards these networks may not necessarily link up to the network in the neighbouring ward.
Not only is this a headache for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, this lack of uniformity across the city adds to the confusion of cyclists and will ultimately make the cycling environment more dangerous despite good intentions.
Going forward it is positive that bicycle sharing systems and cycling infrastructure are being considered at such a high level of government and that there appears to be a commitment to making improvements. We can only hope that Tokyo looks towards countries such as The Netherlands and Denmark for inspiration and doesn't choose to go it alone making all the mistakes we've seen in the past.
March 08, 2015
Is Tokyo's Fractured Cycling Policy On The Mend?
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.