- 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, May 26, 2008

The Dark Shadow Behind a Happy Story

This is quite a quaint little story about how a cat has saved the day for a local railway company in rural Japan. Behind this little story however is a dark picture of decades of pork-barrel roads spending and urban sprawl that has drawn people away from the trains and into cars. Stuck between this ruddy great four-lane rock and the hard place that is a rapidly ageing society, railways across Japan are in decline. Once bankrupt, these lines cease operation, further entrenching automobile dependance. Transport is an interesting thing - people will generally use the most convenient mode which is made available to them. If sqadzillions of yen are spent on roads and highways each year, then it is no wonder that more people drive. Oh yea, I forgot - they don't. People are driving less and less in Japan. And still quantrillions are spent on new roads and highways! I just don't get it. Well, actually I do. It is apathy. The one saving grace for Japan is that the country really just isn't made for cars, and most people these days realize that - so no matter how much they spend trying to get us to foresake our trains/bicycles/walking shoes for cars, we still drive less!

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