In a place like Tokyo, where space is so scarce, everything seems to be smaller. The houses are tiny, the cars are smaller, the streets are narrower, and I suppose even the people are smaller given you don’t see too many obese people walking around!! If you buy a car that is slightly too big, it won’t fit in your garage, like this bloke!
So naturally, a lot of people turn to smaller forms of transportation, or do with none at all, i.e. walk! For me, after a few days of walking around, I started to notice just how many people are on bicycles and wondered why I shouldn’t ride one! In a high-tech city like Tokyo, you would think the bicycles are ‘high-tech’ as well. Strangely, it is rather unsophisticated.
This is the bicycle that I have been riding for the last few days around the neighbourhood and is quite representative of what the locals around here ride. It was left behind by one of the previous guest that stayed here, so I didn’t even have to pay for it! It features a basket, rain guard on the wheels, a keylock on the front wheel, single gear design and a wheel-powered light at the front. Basically, it is a no-frills, practical bike, that is perfect for short runs to the quickie marts just around the corner, and shortens my travel time to the train station by 10 minutes, which is a huge boost.
And being so ‘unsophisticated’, it is probably made in China, therefore, fairly cheap. Here’s a ton of them on sale outside a nearby bicycle shop for as low as 9980 yen (~AUD$130).
For a first-timer cyclist in Tokyo though, you might start to think, “Great! Now I can get anywhere quicker!”.. until you try to park one of these somewhere. You would think it is easy to park bicycles anywhere you can find ample space to park one! Instead, when I am near any major train stations, you will find this:
Mind you, ALL of these bikes were parked illegally, as there were a huge RED sign there stating no bicycles allowed to be parked there. The sign warns that bicycles parked here will be towed away, costing the owner 5000 yen to get it back (~AUD$65). Most people don’t seem to be too bothered though, and continue to park there illegally.
Being a law-abiding visitor, I then looked for a ‘bicycle park’ to park my bike!! Yeap, there is a dedicated bicycle park near every major train station (i.e. like a carpark .. just for bicycles). Trouble is, even the bicycle-park is full if you are going on a weekday!! I would say I am lucky to find a bicycle-park that is semi-empty like this one:
Mind you, it is a huge money saver as well, given the trains aren’t cheap either. I have met a local that rides 20km to work everyday! With bicyle parking problems, I wonder if bike parking is included in the local’s salary package! 🙂
For me, maybe I will need to re-think riding around on a bicycle,and just stick to walking and trains instead. It is definitely more fun than looking for bicycle parking every time I want to stop! Let’s just say, I don’t want to be the first to start a ‘bicycle rage’. I am suprised I haven’t seen one yet!