Cycle Fever In Tokyo

tokyo bicycle commute photo

Photo: Cover of Kobunsha Publishing Co book by Hikita Tomo

Two out of three tokyoites use bicycles, according to a report released by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. This spring, R25, a popular magazine introduced bicycle commuting, noting that this is now officially a trend. They even have a newly coined Japanese word for it: tsuukin-isuto and it is seen as both stylish and "sporty" to ride your bike to work in Tokyo. Tsuukin is the Japanese word for commuting, and add the -ist, and voila, there you have it: tsuukin-i-su-to or tsuukin-ist. Do catch the fever.James Hadfield writes for Metropolis, and he is an avid biker who really should stop running those red lights. He talked to Y's Road, a specialist cycling store with outlets throughout the city. They said their sales figures are "very healthy" at the moment. (Meanwhile, car sales dropped 40% in Japan last month). Sport bikes are not cheap, but shops are not seeing any corresponding decrease in sales.

That might explain why, economic downturn be damned, business at bicycle shops is booming right now. A representative of Y's Road, a specialist cycling store with outlets throughout the city, tells Metropolis that their figures are "very healthy" at the moment. "Car sales have plummeted recently," he says, "and sports bikes aren't exactly cheap—they're often in the region of ¥100,000 to ¥200,000—but we haven't seen any corresponding decrease in sales." The most popular choice is apparently hybrid bicycles, which combine elements of mountain and road bikes, making them ideal for commuting.

The most popular bikes in Japan are still the battery types, but mamachari for mothers bringing toddlers to kindergarten are also popular. But, as commenter Frank noted:

Not possible to use in the USA. No safety belts for the kids or other safety features. Lawsuits would abound and the whole thing would be illegal before the end of the day. Not to mention that the manufacturer, if any company in the USA was stupid enough to manufacture these bikes, would be bankrupt, or worse.

Japan Cycling Association (JCA) is offering classes this fall for bike safety, but helmets are still a non-issue here. Rather, JCA points at a serious lack of designated cycling lanes, and the need for more companies to start recognizing bicycle commuting under the umbrella of worker's accident insurance. On a positive note, some Tokyo companies are now paying a monthly allowance to staff who cycle to work, rather than use the subway.

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