- 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.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bicycles Barred from Rainbow Bridge

A colleague yesterday alerted me to the fact that the Tokyo Port authority has barred people cycling across Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo's biggest bridge which connects the Odaiba area to Tokyo. This was surprising to me as I have ridden over the bridge in the past. In fact I remember it distinctly, because I was so disappointed by the pathetic slapped on afterthought of a footbridge on this magnificent bridge. What's more, it is placed right next to the car lanes - stink and noise for the entire 1km walk across.

There are two levels on the bridge, one is a highway, and the lower level is shared by a monorail, another four or six lanes for cars, and some piddley little space for pedestrians and cyclists along the edge - so we have to put up with the stink and noise of traffic the whole way across - that is unless you want to drive, in which case you are treated like royalty.

It could have been so much better - so simple for the bridge architects to design a wider, straighter, separate lane for bicycles and pedestrians somewhere where they could be protected from the elements as well as being spared from the noise and stink of traffic.

But not satisfied with subjecting non-drivers to this humiliation, the authority has now decided to go a further step and ban bicycles altogether. This is the notice on their website:

This comes at a time when other cities around the world are spending millions refurbishing their major bridges to fill this forgotten gap and cater to bicycles and pedestrians.

So if you are in Japan and reading this blog, now is your chance to contact the ports authority and give them a piece of your mind. Contact details here:

And just remember - a folding bike and cover will get you past the gate no problem ;-)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

USA Driving LESS !

I know this has nothing to do with Japan, but it is so interesting I will add a note.
The Car Free Network sent a link to an article in USA today, polling American citizens on their driving habits and attitudes.

Amazingly, Americans are driving less for the first time in 26 years, and 70% responded as having actively taken steps to reduce their driving. Another interesting result - a whopping 64% said they would not use public transport no matter the price of gasoline. How screwed up is that. I wonder if it is possible to place a financial bet on public transport in the USA - train manufacturers or something perhaps? There must be a hell of a lot of room for improvement if everyone hates it that much. In Tokyo something like 91% of the population commutes by public transport (the remaining 9% who drive though still make such a racket you would think there were more of them).

And another one - more people took public transport last year in the USA than any time in the last 49 years. This makes you wonder... there must have been a pretty good public transport system 49 years ago in the US to have that many people using it ... what the hell happened to it?

This article is well worth a read. It really does seem clear that the aircraft carrier sized juggernaut that is US public sentiment appears to be turning - away from cars. And that is damn good news.