Staff writer Edan Corkill rolled up with his camera to last weekend’s 40-km “Tokyo City Cycling 2009″ event to celebrate the joys — and utility — of urban bicycling, and asked participants how often they ride, where they like to ride and how they think bike-riding in Japan could be made safer.
Tatsuya Kondo (48):
I cycle for leisure — about 40 km once a week on my days off. I like to ride around Yokohama, in particular at Rinko Park.
I think it’s necessary to make bike lanes. Even just having a line on the side of the road to demarcate where bikes can ride would be a help.
Michael Jensen (52):
I ride almost every day, mostly to get to work. I also take long rides on weekends. I like getting out of Tokyo for my rides — to Mount Takao out in the west of the city or to Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture. But if you don’t want to go far out of Tokyo, you can go up and down the rivers, the Tamagawa or the Arakawa — they are very good places to cycle.
If you really want people to use bikes on the scale we use them in Denmark, where I am from, you have to implement infrastructure. I think bike lanes are the way to go. The only reason the chaos of Tokyo’s roads works is because the drivers are so patient and careful.
Satomi Suzuki (41):
I use my bike to commute and I am also a member of a cycling club, so I go riding on weekends sometimes, too. The road along the coast to Enoshima is nice to ride on.
Up until now I have sort of been resigned to the status quo, so I’ve never really thought I want them to do this or that. The lack of bike traffic lights is an issue, though. If you are riding at over 20kph then it is fine to go through a yellow light, but if you are on a mama-chari, then you can’t go fast enough to get through a yellow light. So, they need to think about that. But I can’t imagine anything really changing too drastically in the next few years.
Yoshihiro Saiki (36):
I use my bike every day to go to work, and I also get together with friends and we go for 40- to 50-km rides on weekends. I like riding through the middle of the city — places like Roppongi, where you wouldn’t usually ride. Those kind of districts are usually full of people in cars, but if you’re on a bike you can see them in a different light. I like that.
I really think they should make more bike lanes. Today we were riding on the road, which was fine for people like me who are used to that. But, for people who aren’t used to riding on the road, I think today was probably a bit dangerous. It takes some getting used to.
Masaru Yamaguchi (41):
I ride about three days per week — about 30 to 60 km each time. I do it for exercise and for fun. I like to ride along the Kano River on the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture — that’s where I’m from.
Improving the situaton for bike-riders is a really difficult problem! Maybe bike riders need some kind of equipment to indicate to car drivers what they are doing — like indicators for when they are going to turn, etc. I think it’s probably too difficult to get the authorities to lower the speed limit for cars (although that would make it safer for bike-riders), but maybe you could set up a system of road-side signs telling drivers to be aware of bikes.
Shuichi Kawano (30):
I ride my bike every night around where I live. On holidays I ride about 100 km. Along the Arakawa River is a good place to ride — there is a wide pavement.
The important thing is that bike riders and car drivers have to learn to share the road. I often get car drivers tooting at me as though I am in their way. I think in terms of budgets it may be too much to expect them to make new bike-only roads or bike lanes, so we have to work on people’s awareness.