Danish Transport Minister: Japan's cycling infrastructure lacking

Byron Kidd
During a recent visit to Tokyo the Danish Transport Minister Pia Olsen Dyhr commented that Japan could learn as much about cycling infrastructure from Denmark, as Denmark could learn about rail transport from the Japanese.

bicycle lane tokyo japan
Its true, and it got me thinking. The Danish TRANSPORT Minister is overseas proudly touting their expertise in bicycle infrastructure design in much the same manner that Japanese transport ministers go about promoting multi billion dollar Bullet Train technology. The Danish TRANSPORT minister is concerned with bicycles as TRANSPORT, so much so that she places the same importance on cycling as she does on rail transport. From a Japanese political perspective that is unfathomable.

The Japanese Transport Ministry is still to realise the benefits of bicycles as transport despite millions of bicycles being used for transport daily in Japan, and despite the fact that in Tokyo cycling has 16% modal share. Bicycles in Japan ARE transport, they always have been, and the government needs to understand and cater for that.

Cycling for transport in Japan has been driven by the people out of need, a need that rich Japanese politicians, from rich political families, DO NOT understand. How can you understand the need to cycle to the supermarket when your employees have traditionally done your shopping for you? How can you understand the need to cycle to work when your primary mode of transport is a chauffeur driven automobile?

Remember that many politicians in Japan come from powerful political families, some that have ruled over us commoners for over 300 years such as Tokyo Governor candidate, and former Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa who seems to want to use the post of Tokyo Governor to meddle in national politics rather than focus on the needs of his electorate. These people are as far removed from everyday life as you can imagine. For politicians in Japan cycling for transport really is unimaginable.

The Government demonstrated its lack of vision late last year when it proposed the creation of a Ministry of Bicycle Promotion, headed by weekend recreational cyclist and Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, whose father was once Minister for Education (another political dynasty). Initially it seemed like a great idea to get cycling on the national agenda, but after remarks from the Danish Transport Minister one wonders why cycling isn't governed and promoted by the Transport Ministry. Surely two Ministries governing our roads is inefficient and counterproductive.

So while the government, in response to being awarded the 2020 Olympic Games, has made token moves to put cycling on the agenda the creation of a separate ministry aside from the Transport Ministry demonstrates that the Japanese Government still DOES NOT consider bicycles an important part of Japan's Transportation mix, which they quite clearly are.

If you want to change that, please do sign this petition which will be presented to the Governor of Tokyo demanding better cycling infrastructure in the lead up to the 2020 Olympic Games. As cycling activists here in Japan, we are just beginning to gain momentum, help us apply pressure to the government and to have our voices heard.

I believe it is important for as many of us non Japanese to sign the petition as possible to show Tokyo that the world is closely watching the preparations for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. As has often been the case in Japan in the past, it could be pressure from outside Japan that forces change within. Please sign the petition to lend us your support.

English instructions on how to sign the petition can be found here.

For more stories, news and information about cycling in Tokyo and around Japan follow @tokyobybike on twitter.

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  1. Tell them it's another excuse to pour lots of concrete and pad their pockets and Japan will have more bike infrastructure than it can use! I mean, they've concreted the rivers, mountains and seashores, and are so desperate to piss away more money on graft... I mean infrastructure... that they're going to build an unnecessary mag-lev track while the population's disappearing.

    1. Given the LDP's love of pork barrel politics and infrastructure projects I thought they'd jump at the chance to hand out contracts to rip up and reseal roads all over the country, but alas there are bigger kickbacks elsewhere.

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