Cycling in Japan
Cycling in Tokyo: a response to the Japan times article

To my own horror and amusement I recently, 5 months ago, became a cyclist.

Before this time, cycling was a member in the family of activities (I say activities, not sports on purpose) that also included power walking, badminton, synchronized swimming, ping pong, hula hoopping and synchronized dancing. I have since changed my tune.

The first clue I had that cycling had more to offer than bright, tight and absurd silly looking outfits and shimmering hairless legs was when I made the mistake of climbing Mount Fuji with a friend of mine who despite being 10 years my senior is also an avid cyclist who recently along with his team, exploded onto the cycling scene in Japan.
Read about Keith Powell and Team Ataque Masivo here
Needless to say he smoked me like a cheap cigar going up mount Fuji. At every station when I’d arrive huffing and puffing reading to just let my house be blown down there he would be, casually leaning against a rock sipping a fruit juice just soaking up rays and looking at the clouds.
This sort of opened my eyes to the level of athleticism needed to compete in cycling and that took hold like an infection.
I finally got my hands on a decent bike back in April and since then I have been riding several times a week and I love it. Although I still don’t rock the pink and yellow spandex I have a real new found respect for serious cyclists and I’m just waiting for some ping pong champ to climb a mountain with me so I can have my horizons further expanded. With my luck, it will probably be a girl to boot.

Anyway all that having been said I thought that the Japan times article about the “bike lanes” in Shinjuku was weak, at best.

Japan times article

In the article you can see Mr. Corkill (cool name)  is talking specifically about these highly touted bike lanes on the Kyu-tamagawa suido road and how they were originally supposed to be such a big deal in helping people who are cycling etc etc. The fact is I think the lanes have made cycling on that particular road not only more inconvenient but downright dangerous.
The article concedes the following:

…the legality of cars “stopping” in the bike lane (“parking,” which is defined as being over five minutes, is illegal) is a problem requiring more attention.

Yeah I’ll say.
Essentially that lane has done one thing: become a parking lot. So now instead of the normal small space cyclist would have had to slice through, now that doesn’t even exist. Lots of delivery trucks, construction vehicles of all kinds and Taxi drivers picking people up or just parking there as it’s a convenient spot for a break are everywhere and much more so than on normal roads, for example Yamate dori.
It isnt just about the vehicle itself either but of the occupants of the said vehicle being oblivious to the fact that this is a BIKE LANE. They throw open driver side doors with impunity and wander around like there drunk just getting in the way. I suppose if ones cruising along on your “Mama Chari” at 5 kph then this isnt a big deal. Stopping and starting and reacting are not much a problem, you have plenty of time to make decisions. I am riding a Koga Miyata Team edition racing bike and I want to ride it like that. Fast! That’s what the bike lane is for. But On roads like this I feel as though this is too dangerous.
This does not even begin to address the MORONS who I see riding against traffic coming straight for me on various roads. PLEASE…what are you thinking? Are you thinking? I thought the concept of riding with traffic was fairly common sense and universally accepted. Astounding…shocking.

Corkill’s article is very PC and begins to address the situation but not nearly enough. Hopefully with the popularity of fixed gear bikes rising like the tide after a storm and everyone and their grandmother wanting a bright clever looking bike to cruise around on, at least for the next few months until, god only knows, roller blades come back in style here
then perhaps, just maybe a general sense of road rules will come to apply.

For other “How to … in Japan” guides, try these:

Big In Japan Jail Health Care In Japan Making friends in Japan hostess in Japan
How to become big in Japan How to survive getting arrested in Japan Getting the around the Japanese health care system Making Friends in Japan How not to be a hostess