Monday, August 28, 2006

The situation with cycling in Kyoto:

Kyoto is a city of similar size and contour to Christchurch but with a population of about 1.4 million ( 350,000 in Christchurch) and except for its very hot summer has a similar climate.

Go to the bottom of this posting to open the links to some videos of cyclists in Kyoto.

While the situation for cyclists in Kyoto is not perfect , I feel that in many respects it is a lot more cycle-friendly, less restrictive and safer than it is here in Christchurch and in other cities in New Zealand. (see Kyoto in Kyoto which I put together in Feb/2004),

This picture was taken in the centre
of Kyoto city looking north along Kamogawa river along which a pathway shared by pedestrians and cyclists runs.

Bicycles parked along Kamogawa River near
the Demachi Yanagi Subway station
in the north of Kyoto City.

Cyclists in Kyoto enjoy a high degree of freedom with where they can ride and because they are thought of more as 'fast moving pedestrians' rather than as 'vehicles', they share footpaths (where-ever they exist) with pedestrians,
- even in what would be considered in New Zealand to be areas of high pedestrian traffic (shopping malls etc).

Whether cyclists ride on the roads or on the pavements is optional but where there are pavements over 95% of cyclists use them. Cyclists are free to travel against the traffic in narrow one way streets.

Helmets are not required and have only recently started to appear in bicycle retail shops and are hardly ever worn by commuters.
The pace that cyclists move at is generally very relaxed.

Apart from the Police checking to see if bicycles are stolen and Local Government confiscating 'illegally' parked bicycles , there is no interference or involvement in cycling by the state and nor are there any special provisions made for cyclists. i.e. no cycle (only)ways,no cycle-lanes, very few markings to delineate 'shared' pavements etc. Laissez faire cycling basically.....

It is this unfettered degree of freedom which I believe makes cycling the preferred choice of transport for so many in Kyoto.

A large proportion of the population from all sections of society, including a lot of elderly people, mothers with their young children and all the grocery shopping , fashionable young ladies toting umbrellas and cell-phones, businessmen in suits and even the police use bicycles in their everyday lives.

Mountain bikes and ‘road’ bikes are relatively uncommon and the bicycles most commonly used have either no gears or have 3, 5, or 7 speed internal hub gearing systems with internal hub electrical dynamo in the front wheel for lighting.
There are no 'men's bikes in Japan and NOBODY wears lycra.
There are a similar number of people to those in New Zealand who are into high-speed recreational riding and commuter cycling but I'd guess they're only about 5% (?)of the actual number of cyclists in Japan.
It is this 95% (?) that is missing ( and not being catered for ) in New Zealand that is the area Local Governments in New Zealand should be focusing their attentions on if they are actually serious about achieving the benefits that maximising cycling brings.

Fold-up bicycles which can be taken onto trains, subways, buses or carried in cars and electric power-assisted bicycles are also starting to become well-established among commuters in Kyoto.

In the 10 years I spent cycling in Japan on both mountain bikes and other commuter bikes , both long distance and in cities , I never saw any accidents,-doesn't mean they don't happen, but it generally felt a lot safer than it does in New Zealand.
To see some

Starting from a 'no bicycle parking here' sign, I took this on my mobile phone while riding down along the southern end of Kyoto's Terra Machi Street showing how bicycles are a truly integral part of Kyoto's transport infrastructure.
Notice how much bicycle parking space 1 car takes up.

Here's another short video which I took while riding southward along Kyoto's Kamogawa river under the Shijo bridge passing 'homeless' people's homes, parked bicycles, other (unhelmeted) cyclists and unconcerned pedestrians.

This VIDEO taken along Oike Dori which passes Kyoto's City Hall.

-and a VIDEO taken the narrow back streets in Osaka:

( thanks to Edward P from Christchurch for these two videos)
Another short video of upper Terra Machi dori
Some interesting comments from other cyclists who've enjoyed cycling in Kyoto.

A rave on cycling in Kyoto as compared to New York.

Cycling Culture in Japan ( another blog )

Paul Dorn from San Francisco California made some useful observations on a trip to Osaka (adjacent to Kyoto). (Paul has also written some other pertinent ideas on commuter cycling on other pages which are linked to that site).

A 'thread' from JapanToday on the threat cyclists pose:

"People here use their bikes for daily transportation!"

"I don't think I saw a single cyclist wearing a helmet"
"Riders almost always used sidewalks where these were available"

Cycling in the Netherlands.

Waxing cyclical from the Netherlands

Cycling in Denmark



Blogger Josh said...

If Kyoto is bike heaven, then the San Francisco Bay Area would be purgatory. Los Angeles is bike hell.

Cheers on a great site,


27 September, 2008 09:42  

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