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Free public bicycles will become available in Tokyo this fall, according to a recent announcement by the Environment Ministry. Following the example of free bike systems in European and American cities, the ministry, in conjunction with the Tokyo metropolitan government and a tour agency, will make several hundred bicycles available at five parking ports in the Marunouchi district. A similar pilot program will be carried out in Sapporo, too. Though problems will surely arise, this tentative step, or rather push of the pedal, toward reducing greenhouse-gas emissions should be welcomed.

Turning Tokyo into an eco-minded bike-using city may not be that hard. The ministry said if the pilot program is well received, it plans to expand the program to cover more areas. The initial experiment, which takes place from October to December, is perhaps too small-scale. In two years, the “Velib” free bike system in Paris grew to 20,000 bikes with 1,500 parking spots every 300 meters around central Paris. The city now reports 2 million journeys a month.

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