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Companies offer special benefits to bicycle commuters

35 Comments

Commuters who would rather not be trapped in jam-packed trains, which may increase the risk of exposure to the swine flu, are recently choosing a different option – bicycle-riding to the office.

Men in suits and ties with a backpack traveling to work have become the new trend, and there are several benefits besides the most obvious – escape from enduring train rides overcrowded with passengers.

“Although I have to wear a mask as soon as I get to the office, at least I don’t have to worry about it on the way to work. I bike about 40 minutes, 10 kilometers every day. I don’t go out drinking as much and I’ve lost 10 kilos in a year. My cholesterol level is better and medical exam results are great,” says one Osaka company worker.

Another company employee, a 10-year veteran as a bicycle commuter, explains he’s built stamina by traveling an hour and half to cover the 30-kilometer distance between his home in Kashiwa City and the office in Shinjuku. “I’m also earning extra money from the monthly transportation fee of 15,000 yen provided by the company.”

According to the Japan Bicycle Association, domestic bicycle shipments in 2008 reached 73.4 billion yen (a 21% increase from the previous year), of which sports-type cycles for town riding accounted for nearly 3 billion yen, a 68% increase. Bike related products are drawing attention as well, such as business suits using materials with enhanced breathing-stretching qualities.

Due to the economic downturn, more individuals are selling off their cars and switching to bike riding, according to the Association.

New businesses are following the trend, such as the “Runners Station Plus Bike” which opened in Chiyoda-ku this February, catering to bike commuters’ needs with locker and shower rooms. For the monthly fee of 23,000 yen, members can use the facilities and leave their expensive vehicles in a secure parking area.

Furthermore, an increasing number of companies are encouraging bicycle commuting as a part of the corporate “Eco” policy. For example, since 2006 Sanyo’s manufacturing facility in Gunma has offered continuous payment of commuting allowances to employees who switch from car to bicycle, provided that the distance is between 2 and 5 kilometers one way.

In the case of Yamaha Motor Company in Shizuoka, employees receive special benefits when they change their travel method from car to motorcycle, bicycle or commute on foot. The system has been implemented since 2004, and currently bicycle commuters are paid 1,000 yen per month from the company.

Last August, shochu manufacturer Okuchi Shuzo in Kagoshima introduced a system to encourage bike commute by offering 10 yen per kilometer. More than a third of its employees now ride bicycles to work.

Journalist Tsuyoshi Maeya, who lost 7 kilos in one year by switching to bicycle commuting advises, “You can avoid overcrowded trains, there’s less exposure to the flu virus and you’ll be able to build stamina and strengthen your immune system. But try to take it slow and easy – don’t attempt riding 20 kilometers to the workplace without giving yourself the chance to practice over weekends and gradually increase the distance you can handle.”

Needless to say, please follow traffic rules and remember that riding the bicycle under the influence of alcohol is a no-no.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

35 Comments
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I would do this if I had shower in my office.

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Too bad there's only about 2 months in the year where you can bike to work comfortably.

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This is not a good article, if the person on the bike has an accident on the way to or from work they can claim workers compensation. My previous company banned all forms of transport like bikes and motorbikes because of this.

“I’m also earning extra money from the monthly transportation fee of 15,000 yen provided by the company.”

If the company finds out they will take away his transport fee. HR departments love to do this.

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actually, I think its a great article. It points out a different approach to what "gogogo" is mentioning. Some companies are actively encouraging the bicycle commuting, and articles like these will raise awareness amoung other people which will help put pressure on companies who are not being reasonable. Why would we want reporting that just falls in line with norms?

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I think this is a very positive step. It would help a lot if trains and subway could carry bicycles. But Europe is a step ahead on this, there are some cities being built for bicycles only:

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/05/12/science/20090512-SUBURB_index.html

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good point LostinNagoya. And more bicycle parking please!

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After switching from my 5 Series BMW to bicycle, I'm saving a lot. However, I regret during the raining days. And people in cars look down on you as if you are the poorest thing they ever saw.

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jackfish: I agree it's all good until someone sues the company or makes a works comp claim, which is exactly what happened at my old company. The boss got scared, banned all bikes, motorbikes and cars, even banned "fun activities" or site seeing on company business trips.

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This is a great idea. There are so many reasons why biking is good for everyone. It does have risks involved, but so does living. As long as you pay attention and follow the rules of the road, there is really no reason why it shouldn't be safe.

As for people suggesting that companies ban the use of bikes, I don't see how they can do that. What you do on your own time shouldn't be monitored and can't be enforced in my opinion, as long as it doesn't affect your work in the company. In any case, any company that tries to dictate your personal life may not be worth working for.

Following that argument, I'm not sure how people can claim worker's compensation if they get injured to or from work. If you're not actually "On the clock" how can you claim this? I know there will be exceptions to the rule where traveling is a required part of the job, etc., but for the most part this doesn't make any sense to me.

Lastly, I think that it's about time that companies compensated people for their commute and not by how they commute. If it's your companies policy to reimburse your for your commute, then they shouldn't discriminate between riding a bicycle and any other means. I know that companies do this, but for me, riding a bicycle has been more reliable than taking a bus, train or car. I haven't missed a day of work or been late, whereas my other co-workers have had minor problems with their transportation at some time which caused problems with their arrival time. So, it irks me somewhat that they are compensated for their daily commute whereas I am not. It still costs money (albeit a low amount) to buy and maintain a bicycle.

Now that this article is out, maybe I can show it to my boss to see if he will agree...

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Have you ever written a bike in the rain here...with the wind in the spring time? 20 kilometers can take you a few hours, plus cars are splashing you with water, as it seems to be a national past time. By the way, masks do not stop the flu. Cleaning your hands a lot does.

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All very well and good untill the rainy season hits. Even a seasoned cyclist would find it difficult to get to work and look the part after having been drenched in heavy rain.

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jonobugs - You're not in Kansas anymore - commuting time is comp-covered time. Just like schools' responsibility starts when students step out of their house.

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I'm a daily bike commuter and love it. However, I have access to showers at work. If I didn't, there is no way I would bike commute. If companies really want to encourage bike commuting, they need to provide shower facilities.

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Tip for no-shower commuting: carry a zip-loc bag with a wet towel and a freezer pack insider. bring a 2nd dry towel. when you change clothes (assuming you are not riding in your work clothes), towel off with the cool, damp towel, and then dry off. Works mighty fine even in August. I ride 18kms each way.

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anyone has the japanese version of this news? i want to show it to my boss. i can reimburse my train tickets but not when i commute by bike.

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boitoi, here's an idea: don't tell your boss. just take the money.

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My company also bans commuting by bicycle.

I'm an avid cyclist, and I work in the middle of the night and would be able to enjoy the absolutely fantastic 5:00 AM road environment -- bright as noon, not yet hot, and very few cars -- were it not for this silly regulation.

Defy it at your peril -- even if they can't fire you for cycling to work, the company will just find some flaw in your work and decrease your salary accordingly.

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I've worked for two companies who know I cycle; they've still given me the equivalent subway fare, perhaps because you can't cycle year-round in Sapporo.

The biggest obstacles, are other posters pointed out:

Showering Illegal parking on streets and absence of cycling lanes Absence of parking at my office building; it's actually probited by the city and/or cho-nai-kai. Prohibition against walking bikes through the JR station building that covers a dozen blocks and obstructs my route to the office; I'm not sure that prohibition is even legal; reason given for the prohibition, "Ruuru dakara."

If I got paid 10 yen per km, that wouldn't even cover half the cost of parking at a lot near the station. Parking outside the lot is verboten, even if it's on the grounds of my company's building.

Sux to be me on a bike.

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Speaking from rather recent Experience, cycling in Japan is rather more dangerous than it seems, and if you do get hit be a car, the Police will only try to convince you that you're also to blame (or even totally)... and for compenstation from the Drivers Insurance company - forget it, you'll be offered a pittance to cover the loss of your bicycle.

Does anyone have any advice ? As I could surely do with some now...

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Thank you for this article. We have been enjoying bicycle ride to office for over 2 years now. It's not for every body as it depends on location and distance to office. But you should give it a try at least once. We compiled some links you might find useful: http://www.indomachi.com/node/25

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jonobugs: The second you step out of your house to goto work you can claim workers comp. All travel time including company outings, lunch time, going home from work, even company BBQ are all workers compensation zones. The person that wrote this article should have seriously done some research.

mmwk2008: Even if an accident is 100% not your fault in Japan it is still partly your fault for being in that place at that time to cause that accident. Weird rule I know but thats how it goes.

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gogo: I agree you can claim compensations but only if the accident happend on your official rout to work. In my company every year we have to confirm our means of transportation and even small map is drawn.

If it says I travel by train I don't think they will compensate me if I got hit while riding a bike!

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I guess this could be a good thing. Your benefits will probably boil down to what you are pedaling.

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bogva: They are trying to cover their butts, just the same way companies try to avoid paying overtime, if you took it to court you would win.

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Actually, the accident did happen on my official route from work. Old guy came out of an ajoining junction and rear ended me, force of impact snapped my Carbon fibre frame, though I walked away from it, can't remember all the gory details so presumably momentarily knocked out. Since then headaches, lack of sleep, neck pain, etc. Has anyone any ever been in an RTA invovling car & bicycle and taken it to court in Japan ? Would appreciate any info.

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One of the worst things in Japanese narrow streets are the bicylcles. I hate them. People shall commute by bicycles if there is a bike lane as in every civilized country of the world, otherwise they shall go on foot or by public transportation.

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"My company also bans commuting by bicycle"

If you have to work for this dumb company, don't tell anyone you're commuting by bicycle. Surely you can find a place to park your bike within a few minutes' walk from your dumb company?

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mmwk2008: You can get money for life from the guy that hit you, when a car hits a bike or something smaller than them the bigger object is always in the wrong. The guy that hit you will have to pay you x amount of money to you per month for your life time. This is how the Japanese system works, you should seriously talk to a lawyer about this case and at least get your medical bills paid for.

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within the yamanote line where can you park a bicycle?

And as others say lack of showers is a definite problem.

In the winter I commuted to a language school - 50 minutes by public transport then I bought a bike - 25 minutes :-)

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for compenstation from the Drivers Insurance company - forget it, you'll be offered a pittance to cover the loss of your bicycle.

Not a pittance. It will usually cover the cost of the bike, plus compensation for medical, plus meiwaku (inconvenience) money. A friend on a bike was blindsided by a cab that didn't stop at a side street. She lost a couple of teeth. They pressured her to accept a quick payment -- "they" being both the cab company and her eikaiwa employer. I think they were afraid of being sued by a litigious foreigner. They should have thrown on the cost of a straw to have lunch through.

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mmwk2008: My co-worker is a cyclist who's live here for over 30 years and he concurs with gogogo - the car is in the wrong no matter what. You should see a lawyer because you are entitled to compensation!

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I commute year-round in Sapporo by bike. In the winter I switch the tires to winter MTB spikes and even the slickest sheets of ice can't stop me. The only thing that makes me take the subway with the dirty coughing masses is the rain. I raced bicycles back in Canada and rain on a bicycle just sucks on a level that can't be put into words.

I don't worry about parking where "Das ist verbotten!" because they legally have to put a warning ticket on your bike 24-48 hours before it is confiscated. Nobody else in Sapporo worries about it, so, when in Rome!

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I don't worry about parking where "Das ist verbotten!" because they legally have to put a warning ticket on your bike 24-48 hours before it is confiscated. Nobody else in Sapporo worries about it, so, when in Rome!

I don't think this is true. I've had my bike carted off on the same day I parked it. I think the rules in the station area are stricter. 2000 yen fine to reclaim the bike. If it were a 24-hour warning, then I could park at my office every day and toss the ticket when I rode home.

With spike tires it's possible to ride year-round in Sapporo, but the big problems are rutting, sidewalks piled high and unevenly, and lack of awareness of cyclists by drivers in winter. I can't really blame drivers for not expecting cyclists in mid-winter, though.

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Sarge, I would not want to get caught doing something the company banned. A Japanese company might well let you go for that.

I wonder how long into the rainy season bike riding is going to last?

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i should do this more often, but taxi has been a better option recently.

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