- 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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tokyo politicians ride bikes for support

In Japan local politicians almost invariably dust off their bicycles during election season - it is good image. This is a photo of one of our local politicians. Notice how she is not dressed in spandex. Bicycles are not just a "sport" here - they are a way of getting about. There is plenty of overlap of course, but sports cyclists are another breed altogether. The only place in Japan where bicycles are lumped into the "sports" category is online auction sites, where the Japan seems to have borrowed the American way of doing things (so of course there is a separate auto section).

It is very sad that while politicians such as this recognise how important it is to connect with the people, at the higher levels of government and politics people tend to drive, or more often are driven, around. I have thought about this. Perhaps famous people do this to avoid having to deal with people while walking or cycling. I expect many famous politicians must also feel at great danger riding or walking around at the complete mercy of strangers driving along at high speeds beside them - strangers who recognize them and may not necessarily like them...

But the answer is not for the politicians to be driving as well. Any truly civic minded politician should be working to make life safe for pedestrians and cyclists, so that they can also safely be one themselves. As long as high level officials, politicians and famous personalities shun public transport, walking or bicycles in favour of autos, we all have a problem because they will favour policies which promote these interests.

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