- 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 ;-)


Jason said...

I can confirm this. Today (January 2, 2008) I tried to ride over the Rainbow Bridge on my Trek 7.3 FX, despite reading this blog before I left my house. I just wanted to see for myself. I walked across the Rainbow Bridge in January 2007, and once I bought my bike in June 2007 had always wanted to ride across it.

Well, you would have thought I was approaching the bridge by gunpoint the first ojisan was so defensive and rude to me. Right off the bat he just crossed his arm in that "X" formation that means no and shouted "dame" (stop in Japanese). Then more shouts of no. Then no bicycle. No excuse me and explaining in a friendly way I can't take my bike on the bridge.

This of course made me defensive and I wasn't going to just let him get away with that. Then another ojisan came over and he was more sympathetic. I felt I got him to admit the rule was stupid.

I confirmed that you can't even walk your bike over the bridge.

I can't say how ludicrous this rule is. I'd love to know the reasoning for banning even the walking of bikes across the bridge.

Mark said...

That sucks! They really need as many cycle lanes as they can get in Tokyo! Looks like I'll have to take another route on my ride round the harbour tomorrow :(

StompinRhino said...

Yes, it does seem crazy when Tokyo Kenchiji is bidding for the Olympics on a "green" platform - and even apparently wanted the Tokyo Marathon to go across Rainbow Bridge. But, you can just ride up carrying a Japanese "Rinko" bag. If they stop you then just bag the bike up, walk across, then promptly unbag and ride on, stuffing the bag back in your pocket.

StompinRhino said...

"Tochiji", sorry.