Also picked up a copy of Japan Times that had an article about cycling in Japan. Here are some quotes from the article.
"cycling burns no oil, produces no toxins and is therefore not harmful for the environment. If more people commuted to work by bicycle, it would make rush-hour trains less unbearable. It would even help cut the nation's medical expenditures by making people healthier, less obese and less prone to a whole range of lifestyle-related illnesses.
Despite these great benefits of cycling - not to mention the pleasure of pedaling along at your own pace, too - bike-friendly politicians are rare in Japan. Rare, that is, except during election campaigns, when pretty much every candidate rides a flag-fluttering bicycle to advertise his or her "ordinariness".
But on a grassroots level, Japan is definitely at the dawn of a new era in cycling, with increasing numbers of city dwellers now starting to use bikes for 5 to 10 km commutes or for recreation in the suburbs on weekends.
Last week the Weekly diamond, a major weekly business magazine run a 43 page special feature titled "Jitensha ga Atsui!" (bikes are hot!) that detailed the recent cycling boom and was aimed at its core readership of middle age businessmen.
What's fuelling the boom is a rise in the popuplarity of high-speed, lightweight sports bikes - which include road bikes and so-called cross bikes (hybrids that mix characteristics of road racers and mountain bikes) - as well as battery-assisted bikes.
Last year in fact, 315000 battery assisted bikes sold in Japan, overtaking for the first time the sales of 50cc motorbikes. In addition, according to industry figures, 19.1 new sports bikes were sold at each of the country's bike stores on average in 2008, up from 13.2 in 2007 and almost double of 10.1 in 2006.
Not that cycling is an entirely new concept here. Japan has long been a cycling nation, with an estimated 86 million machines long distributed amont its roughly 128 million population. But the most common types of bicyles used in Japan are so-called mama-chari (Mommy's bike), which experts reckon, comprise 70 to 90 percent of all bikes in the country. Typically weighing more than 20kg, these ponderous vehicles seldom seen anywhere else in the world are suitable only for short-distance trips. Many mama-chari are made in China and are equipped with a grocery basket in front and a child's seat on the back - and they come cheap, often costing less than 10000 Japanese Yen.
However, the current, rising popularity of commuter and recreational cycling in Japan has exposed some serious shortfalls in the nation's cycling infrastructure and traffic regulations.
For one, of all industrialized nations, Japan is probably the only country where cyclist routinely share sidewalks with pedestrians - whether legally or illegally. This is due to a change in the Road Traffic Act, which has allowed cyclist to ride on some - but not all - sidewalks.
This was a response to a surge in the number of accidents involving cars and bicycles and was an emergency life-saving measure to protect cyclists - who at the time were increasingly becoming the victims of road traffic accidents - and that the understanding was that it would be phased out with the introduction of bike lanes. But even now, more than 30 years on, bike lanes have yet to arrive in the vast majority of areas.
Consequently, cyclist now pose a major threat to pedestrians in most of Japan's towns and cities. Over the past decade, the number of accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians shot up 4.5 times, to 2942 in 2008.
Even more troubling is the fact that 65 percent of the 717 people killed by cyclists were at age of 65 or older - pointing to the fact that sidewalks are not protecting some of the most vulnerable pedestrians in society....
There is more, but I'm getting tired typing it all