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Tokyo needs better cycling infrastructure

By Byron Kidd

When it comes to cycling, Japan Today readers are generally split between two groups -- those who love bicycles, and those who absolutely hate them.

One of the major gripes readers have is the danger posed to pedestrians by bicycles being ridden on the sidewalks. Now I believe both groups can put aside their differences and act as one by supporting a petition which will be presented to candidates in the Tokyo gubernatorial election asking the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to improve cycling infrastructure in the city ahead of the 2020 Olympic games.

Why would those that hate cyclists in the city even consider signing such a petition? Well, basically because it would mean less of those pesky cyclists on the sidewalks and we all want that right?

The petition specifically asks the government to launch a number of initiatives including:

1) Increasing the number and quality of Tokyo's bicycle paths. The total length of bike paths in New York is 1,500 kms, London has 900 kms and in Paris there are 600 kms of cycling lanes. Yet in Tokyo, there were a mere 8.7 kms of bike lanes at the end of 2011 despite huge numbers of cyclists. This needs to be addressed.

2) Improving bicycle parking conditions by creating a distributed network of parking facilities in convenient locations around the city including close to major train stations.

3) Establishing a bicycle sharing system in the lead up to the 2020 Olympics which will assist in reducing traffic congestion around the city and in particular around the Olympic village and facilities.

Cycling in Tokyo already enjoys a 16% modal share despite inadequate cycling facilities, but the majority of those trips by bicycle are made on sidewalks endangering cyclists and pedestrians alike. Improved infrastructure will create a safer environment for both cyclists and pedestrians and cyclist numbers will soar even higher promoting Tokyo to one of the greatest cycling cities in the world.

The petition has collected over 3,500 signatures since going online and that number is steadily growing. Anyone with an interest in improving Tokyo's cycling infrastructure is eligible to sign the petition including residents and non residents alike.

Even if you're not in Japan, please add your signature to the petition to show your support for cycle friendly cities around the world, and a cycle friendly Tokyo for 2020.

You can sign the petition here

The author runs the Tokyo By Bike website.

© Japan Today

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Good idea but why just Tokyo? Here in the Inaka using a public road is akin to Russian roulette, Some lanes to take bicycles and maybe obaa chan scooter riders off the roads would be most welcome. I would even cycle more myself then.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tokyo is fantastic for cycling - I've covered most parts over the past 5 years on my roadbike. The main danger is the fact that Japanese cities / towns all share the common trait of buildings being built right on the corners of streets. This is asking for trouble in cities as populated as Tokyo. We've all had near-misses (and even a few accidents). I've lived in the shitamachi areas of Tokyo and it's basically a death wish every time you head out - nothing but blind corners and oblivious obaasans / mothers-with-kids-on-bikes. It's truly scary stuff.

On the other hand, most main roads have a designated shoulder / lane for bicycles, which is great. If you're lucky enough to live in East Tokyo, there is a huge cycling road that goes from the mouth of the Arakawa River all the way up past Mizumoto Park in Kanamachi (Katsushika ward). Highly recommended!

So yeah, Tokyo does need more facilities here and there - but is definitely miles ahead of some of the other cities I've been to (take my hometown Sydney, for example).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Tokyo needs better cycling infrastructure"

I'll say! For one thing, the bicycle "lanes" on the side of some streets are a joke, you can't ride in them because they're mostly covered by illegally parked vehicles.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sure infrastructure sounds great. However the roads are very narrow and one can imagine some examples of infrastructure creating less safety = a 500cm wide bike lane running right up against parked cars, so if you ride in the bike lane you will get "doored" sooner or later. I would like to see public education about how bikes and cars can co-exist, and how common accidents can be avoided.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Serrano, I cane here to post just that!

A street with a thin shoulder, about one third of a car-lane wide, offers a natural bike lane that also serves to keep cars separated from pedestrians even when there are no bikes around. I love riding my bicycle on these lanes when I can find them. With these, the cyclist never has to go up onto the sidewalk and everyone is safer.

Once a car illegally parks itself in this lane, a chain reaction of dangerous things begins: the cyclist has to either go into the main road, far enough that he won't get doored by the car in case someone inside it opens a door without looking, and hope that the cars coming up from behind can see him doing it (they often fail to pay attention to this kind of thing), or go up on the sidewalk where it's safe, forcing pedestrians to step aside. Then the pedestrian is bumped by someone not looking where he's going because he's absorbed in his smartphone. Eliminate the parked cars and you eliminate well over half the danger. (Actually, eliminate automobiles entirely and you'd eliminate just about all the danger, but we all know that will never happen.)

There are a few bicycle lanes that are built as part of the sidewalk and have a nice safe fence separating them from cars -- one such lane is on the Okubo-dori from Kagurazaka to the Tokyo Dome. It's great, but the pedestrians typically pay no attention to the bicycle lane and will even give a cyclist dirty looks while standing right on top of the bike icon on the ground! I'd like to see these lanes given the same blue-themed labeling that other bicycle lanes have.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

New road law specifies that all new/widened roads need to include a cycle lane,

In my town they are even tearing down buildings to make space, here most bicycle lanes are also physically separated. Seen a road go from 2 metres to 13. Of course also depends how rich your town is.

Will it happen in a heavily buildup area like central Tokyo soon, forget it.

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