Cycling in Japan is lovely

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Mububban
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Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Mububban » Tue May 16, 2017 2:01 pm

My wife and I spent a week around Tokyo together, as well as doing a 32km cycling tour of the city, in May 2017, and it’s the first time I’ve cycled in another country, and really been conscious of the differences in cycling culture while abroad. We caught the train and walked everywhere and bikes were everywhere. It was great!

The main difference was that, because people of all ages and walks of life cycle everywhere, it is completely normal. Riding on the busy city streets of Tokyo was not scary at all. Nobody honked horns or yelled at us or threw anything at us. Vehicles behind simply slowed down to wait for us. It was quite the novelty :)
I described to our tour guide what it’s like cycling on the road in Australia and his jaw literally dropped with shock.

The effect of the normality of it is obvious. Who wants to be seen yelling and screaming at a mum taking her kids to school, or an old man doing his shopping? Whereas when you wear lycra and helmets here, you’re seen as fair game.

I’m used to 50cc scooters in the parts of Asia I’ve visited, but I didn’t see a single one on the road in Tokyo. Cars, some motorbikes, but no 50cc scooters buzzing around.

What I did see were BIKES. Bikes everywhere! Men and women of all ages and walks of life, cycling to and fro. Bikes parked in rows everywhere you go.

Most bikes were simple 7 speed with step through frames, mudguards, and a front dyno hub with LED light. A single speed version costs about $120 so I don’t imagine the 7 speed would be too expensive.

I also reckon at least 10% of the bikes I saw were pedelec e-bikes. They are the future of short trip urban transport. The one in the back of this picture is about $1000.

Image


Hardly any mountain bikes. LOTS of folding bikes, some with electric assist. Not many “nice” bikes like flat bar roadies or proper road bikes, which probably lowers the risk of theft. I’ve heard that the Dutch have their cheap old bike for the daily commute, and a nicer bike at home for longer rides.

The only helmets, lycra and carbon I saw were a handful of roadies near the Imperial Palace. Everyone else was sans helmet, and in normal clothing.

My favourite bike was what I dubbed “The Mum Bike” although I did see a couple of dads riding them too :) They’re a long step through frame with electric assist, chunky 20 (?) inch wheels, a front seat for a child under ~5, a rear seat for a child under ~10, and some even had a shopping basket on the front too. Brilliant!
The small size of Japanese children means you’d get many years of use out of one of these bikes.

Dad with 2 kids. In this one you can also see an e-assist folding bike:
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The strangest bikes I saw were a compact frame with I think 20 inch wheels, which I’m guessing is a “storage space” compromise between having a small house, wanting a rigid framed full sized bike but not a folding bike.

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Nobody uses a bell. Pedestrians keep left and cyclists weave their way around them in slow safe silence. They change from road to footpath and even ride on the wrong side of the road if it leads them to the next path they need, and nobody bats an eyelid.

I can only hope that one day, cycling in Australia will be like this. Normal. Everyday. Unremarkable. It’s definitely better than it was 20 years ago, but it’s been a long time for a fairly small improvement.
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g-boaf
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby g-boaf » Tue May 16, 2017 2:36 pm

I hope so as well. I don't care about the types of bikes, just that more people ride them.

It'll be great to be able to ride somewhere without the usual worries we all face.

It'd make my riding a lot easier - I have to ride a long way to reach decent hills, and that's a problem with the way traffic behaves here.

I also commute as well - although I know I'm breaking the rules using a high end race bike for that, but it is what I have, so that's what I use.

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Nobody » Tue May 16, 2017 5:10 pm

Thanks for posing Mububban.

Nice to know there are other countries - other than in Europe - that don't consider cyclist to be "cockroaches of the road" as Derryn Hinch once put it.

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby twowheels » Tue May 16, 2017 6:48 pm

The 20" bikes are minivelo or variations on that spelling. Did you buy bikes or rent?

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby mikgit » Tue May 16, 2017 9:19 pm

yep, was in tokyo last year and it was bikes everywhere, they ride all over the place and through pedestrians and there are zero issues. Briliant.
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Mububban
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Mububban » Tue May 16, 2017 10:29 pm

twowheels wrote:The 20" bikes are minivelo or variations on that spelling. Did you buy bikes or rent?


We only rode during the cycling tour ourselves. The rest was on foot and on the trains, which are also comprehensive enough to be awesomely useful.
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby chriso_29er » Tue May 16, 2017 10:34 pm

Would have loved to get out for a ride when I was in tokyo earlier in the year. Enjoyed watching the bikes through central Tokyo.
Only saw a few actually doing a 'fast' commute on the road or on a faster bike. Like you said most were the dutch style commuter bikes being ridden anywhere in any direction.
I was a little concerned with their little use of rear lights on the road at night, but cars seem to see them all the same.

Had a giggle at this bloke I spotted. Taking rider style to a whole new level.
Image
Image

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Mububban
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Mububban » Tue May 16, 2017 10:42 pm

Pimp Daddy and his Pimp Pooch :D
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Comedian » Wed May 17, 2017 7:00 am

I was there 18 months ago, and still have a memory of my 9 year old cycling down Ginza on the main road. I wasn't at all concerned. There is no way that could happen in Brisbane.

That I'd be viewed as a bad parent if I allowed it to happen says so much about our attitudes to cycling.

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby cjrich » Wed May 17, 2017 8:07 am

Recently read somewhere that Japan was voted the best country for cycling outside of Europe. I visit Japan regularly as my wife is Japanese, just last month we rented a couple a flatbars and road the Shimanami Kaido 7 Bridges ride, awesome ride and highly recommend it. Also rented the share bikes available in some cities, even felt safe riding without a helmet. Next visit I hope to take my bike and do some rides around Mt Fuji area.
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby RonK » Wed May 17, 2017 10:03 am

cjrich wrote:I visit Japan regularly as my wife is Japanese, just last month we rented a couple a flatbars and road the Shimanami Kaido 7 Bridges ride, awesome ride and highly recommend it.

Definitely on my to-do list.
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby caneye » Wed May 17, 2017 10:28 am

the cops in Japan ride bicycles too (especially in tokyo)! :lol:

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Toyopet » Wed May 17, 2017 10:46 am

Yes, the attitude towards cycling in Japan is certainly something we need to aim for here in Australia. I’ve loved cycling there on and off over the years, and am going back for some more later this year - cycling around Shikoku for the first time.

Japan has some great schemes to promote cycling too. For example, this one which provides rebates if you purchase a bicycle with child seats. http://www.tsukubainfo.jp/info/2017/0407_1326.html

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby PA » Wed May 17, 2017 11:52 am

We visited Japan in late 2015 and as I walked past a cyclist on his Carbon road bike in his Lycra I tried to strike up a conversation, unfortunately it turned out the only common word we have was Strava. We both had a good laugh and I left him to his ride.

We hired a Campevan for three weeks and the person who gave us the briefing on it said do not hit a cyclist or pedestrian as you will go to jail. I deduced that if you hid the bodies you can get away with it.
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby BugsBunny » Wed May 17, 2017 1:08 pm

I did a 6 day cycling tour in Aomori, Japan last year which is out in the country side. The road conditions were fanastic, barely a pot hole to be seen, the cars were generally very cautious and friendly to cyclists (maybe one or two "incidents" where our paceline was perhaps a little too long or annoying), and the routes and scenery just absolutely stunning! I reckon its a hidden gem and one of the most scenic places you can ride on earth.

I dont know how to upload pictures, but if you goolge "Mount Iwaki" - check out the 60-odd switchbacks up the climb we did. It looks sureal.

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Mububban » Wed May 17, 2017 1:18 pm

BugsBunny wrote:I dont know how to upload pictures, but if you goolge "Mount Iwaki" - check out the 60-odd switchbacks up the climb we did. It looks sureal.


Ya whaaaaat?

Image
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby CXCommuter » Wed May 17, 2017 3:20 pm

Comedian wrote:I was there 18 months ago, and still have a memory of my 9 year old cycling down Ginza on the main road. I wasn't at all concerned. There is no way that could happen in Brisbane.

That I'd be viewed as a bad parent if I allowed it to happen says so much about our attitudes to cycling.


As my wife is Japanese (from Nagoya) we let the kids (both less than 10 years old) out to ride with friends without supervision with no issues. They also walked to school there with friends with no adult supervision also with no issues.

Cannot envisage either at there age here in Sydney. At least when we were in Perth riding to school was encouraged, here in Sydney it is banned, kids cycling to school is considered child abuse (sigh)

Haven't ridden in Japan other than Mamachari bikes purely for transport but watched guys riding around Hakone with interest.
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby BugsBunny » Wed May 17, 2017 3:44 pm

Hey Mub

Yeah - thats Mount Iwaki!

I remember the night before the ride at the briefing, I wasn't paying attention to the layout of the route. All I was thinking of was the elevation and the time limit - which was a bit of a worry for me.

So on the day of the climb, I just had my head down - suffering and grinding all the way. My mind had absolutely no recollection of the route - only the image of the summit - which was rather cool. So it wasn't until I returned back home and did some googling did I see the route I had climbed and I was blown away by the how it looked. Definately, a memorable climb.

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby yugyug » Thu May 18, 2017 12:08 am

Mububban wrote:
BugsBunny wrote:I dont know how to upload pictures, but if you goolge "Mount Iwaki" - check out the 60-odd switchbacks up the climb we did. It looks sureal.


Ya whaaaaat?

Image


That looks awesome. On my list for the future.

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby CXCommuter » Thu May 18, 2017 4:56 am

Iirc cars aren't parked randomly on streets with gov funded parking spots. You either park in a car oark or don't drive.
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby defy1 » Thu May 18, 2017 4:24 pm

Toyopet wrote:Yes, the attitude towards cycling in Japan is certainly something we need to aim for here in Australia.


it will never happen unfortunately but we can dream. Its not a cycling issue, its a cultural difference.

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby uart » Thu May 18, 2017 6:46 pm

Mububban wrote:Image

I can only hope that one day, cycling in Australia will be like this. Normal. Everyday. Unremarkable. It’s definitely better than it was 20 years ago, but it’s been a long time for a fairly small improvement.


It sounds like a really great place to cycle Mububban. :D

Is it just my imagination or is there a positive correlation between countries that don't have mandatory helmet laws and those which are bicycle friendly. Coincidence or cause and effect - TBH I don't know - but the correlation definitely seems to be there.

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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Mububban » Fri May 19, 2017 11:22 am

uart wrote:Is it just my imagination or is there a positive correlation between countries that don't have mandatory helmet laws and those which are bicycle friendly. Coincidence or cause and effect - TBH I don't know - but the correlation definitely seems to be there.


It absolutely makes a difference. Studies have shown that drivers will drive closer, and pass faster, when a cyclist wears a helmet, and especially if they're in lycra. But they will leave more space between a "normal" person on a bike.

And the only way to change anti-cycling culture to pro-cycling is for more "average" people to do it, in normal clothes, without helmets. Remove all impediments and people will do it. Then those that ride will give more consideration to cyclists when they are driving a car, and car drivers get used to seeing more and more cyclists so it becomes more familiar.

I'd love to see Australia drop mandatory helmet laws, even though I personally will always wear one after my trusty Stackhat saved me from a head injury at a young age.
I think the overall national health benefits would far outweigh the inevitable and tragic (but relatively few) number of traumatic brain injuries that would occur. And it wouldn't just be health benefits but also affect infrastructure spending and environmental issues.
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Mububban » Fri May 19, 2017 11:23 am

defy1 wrote:it will never happen unfortunately but we can dream. Its not a cycling issue, its a cultural difference.


I was surprised to hear that the "cycling mecca" of the Netherlands used to be as pro-car and anti-cycling as Australia is now. I saved this article a while ago for future reference :)

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/ ... indermoord

The Dutch take this for granted; they even tend to believe these cycle-paths have existed since the beginning of time. But that is certainly not the case. There was a time, in the 1950s and 60s, when cyclists were under severe threat of being expelled from Dutch cities by the growing number of cars. Only thanks to fierce activism and a number of decisive events would Amsterdam succeed in becoming what it is, unquestionably, now: the bicycle capital of the world.
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Re: Cycling in Japan is lovely

Postby Mububban » Fri May 19, 2017 11:27 am

Mububban wrote:I'd love to see Australia drop mandatory helmet laws, even though I personally will always wear one after my trusty Stackhat saved me from a head injury at a young age.



I should clarify - I think kids should still wear helmets. In Japan, I saw several kids aged 6-11 riding on ~20 inch bikes, and they ALL wore helmets. But the only adults I saw wearing helmets were the one small group of lycra-clad roadies going for a fast ride.

Also, our cycling tour guide wore a helmet and we all took up the option of wearing one (we rode with 2 ladies from the USA) but his job is to ride a bike all day every day and on the city streets so I'd say that's a fair precaution to take.
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