Don't Mess With The Natural Order of Bicycle Parking

Byron Kidd
There is always one. You know the person, the one who takes it upon themselves to tidy up the bicycle parking lot thus throwing the natural order of things into disarray.

Bicycle parking in Tokyo, Japan
Bicycle parking at our apartment is, like many across Japan, an unorganised knot of metal, cables and rubber, consisting of seemingly way too many bicycles in the space provided. To the untrained eye its an untidy, disorganised, eyesore, but residents who use it daily know it has evolved this way naturally over time and represents the most efficient use of the space available. Let me explain.

Over the ages, abandoned bicycles have gradually migrated to the hardest to reach and most inconvenient locations in the lot, lesser-used bicycles occupy the middle ground of slightly inconvenient locations, while bicycles which are being used daily, the kings of the jungle, reside in the most accessible spots. Like any society, there is some shuffling in the ranks from time to time, but balance is always maintained. For example, when someone new moves into the building and their bicycles are assimilated into the lot, it takes some time before they find their natural place within the parking hierarchy.

All this takes place quite naturally, there is no communication between the owners of the bicycles, there are merely subtle shifts in the placement of bikes over time until equilibrium is reached. Like everything in nature its a fine balance.

Then that one person comes along, the one who decides to "tidy up" the bicycle parking by arranging all the bicycles in rows, alphabetically, according to size, colour, weight or some other bizarre system that bears no resemblance to the natural order of things as determined by time. When the job is done the delicate ecosystem has been destroyed and it will take weeks if not months to recover.

This is exactly what happened at our apartment over the weekend, someone possibly with good intentions, but no knowledge of the dynamics of bicycle parking took it upon themselves to "sort out" the bike parking "problem".

This morning my bicycle wasn't anywhere near where I left it. It had been moved, then moved again by someone else so they could extract their own bicycle from the newly imposed, highly inefficient, structure. This left my bicycle leaning sideways, kickstand in the air, with its brake cables caught in the handlebars of the mamachari next to it. Thankfully I reached it before the owner of the mamachari had a chance to rip the cables from my bike.

But worse was what happened to my youngest daughters bicycle, her rear reflector had been smashed, obliterated, and the was a substantial scratch and dent in her rear mudguard.

Way to go asshole, you've damaged a little girl's bicycle, and for what reason? To impose your static structure on a dynamic system that had no faults other than being a little displeasing to the eye. How much force did you need to use to shuffle a few bikes around? You may consider bicycles an eyesore, you may consider them disposable, but some of us cherish our bicycles, care for them, keeping them in fine condition so they're a pleasure to ride.

Sure it's just a reflector, I will replace it for a mere Y100, but the look on my daughters face when she saw her damaged bicycle revealed the true price of the damage inflicted by this inconsiderate individual, a price that can't be measured in any currency. Thanks asshole, next time just butt out, our bicycle parking was working fine before you "fixed" it.

Honestly, when parking your bicycle in Japan you have to expect a few accidental scratches, which is why my commuter bike isn't the best bike in my stable, but a completely smashed reflector and seriously dented mudguard is something else, it shows an intentional disregard for another person's property. There is no need for a child's bike to be thrown around in such a manner.

So, what starts as a light-hearted story comparing bicycle parking to a living ecosystem ends with an angry rant. I didn't intend the article to turn out that way, but that's how it evolved, and unlike some, I'm not one to step in the way of evolution.

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