- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Tokyo, a land of contrasts

It is often said that Japan is a land of contrasts. This is very true for the state of cycling. Any other country in the world with the levels of cycling that Japan enjoys, has reached these levels due to strong support from governments. Japan, however, seems to have high levels of bicycle use IN SPITE of the best efforts of governments.

Ochanomizu station is one good example- a very popular station on the JR line, where both the express and the local trains stop, as does the Chiyoda subway line. The area is home to numerous universities and teaching hospitals with many many students, fertile ground for a strong cycling population. So you would expect that there might be a bicycle rack near the station. In fact, you might expect that there would be bicycles everywhere around the station.

Yet, when you look around, all you can see are signs like the one above saying "NO BICYCLE PARKING" and red hats and poles up blocking the path to make absolutely clear that bicycles are not kosher here.

When you go ask the policemen on the corner - who incidentally ride bicycles themselves, why it is that there is no bicycle parking around the place, they will tell you that, well, Japan is a small place - there is not enough space. Ironically, not two feet away on the road side of the footpath, there are six full lanes of vehicular traffic, two of which are entirely occupied by parked cars.

It is even more ironic that the space these six or ten cars occupy would be more than sufficient to meet the needs of one hundred cyclists wishing to use the station. Yet rarely does anyone seem to notice just how hypocritical this is.

1 comment:

Alastair said...

stumbled across your site by chance on Google. Great stuff!
I loved cycling in Japan.