City Cycle “Sharing” Systems

港区自転車シェアリング

Bridgestone bikke model bike available in Minato Ward

Japanese cities have always been places where people on bicycles are not only welcome, but characteristic of life in the city.  However, for the most part, these riders have supplied their own wheels.  Now, following the worldwide trend toward encouraging bicycle use within metropolitan areas, Tokyo is hoping to develop an integrated bike share program of its own as it looks toward hosting the 2020 Olympics.  An article and video news report posted on the NHK site today offers some details about the program.

Up until now, bike shares in Tokyo have been ward-specific, with Koto (江東区), Chuo (中央区), Minato (港区), and Chiyoda (千代田区) wards each offering their own programs. However, the municipality now wants to work to combine these and create a unified system.

If you are curious about the nuts and bolts of a current program, the Minato Ward Bike Sharing site has short videos explaining (in Japanese) how to register and borrow bikes, as well as a map showing the locations of the stands and images of its customized red Bridgestone bikke model bikes.

Other cities in Japan have developed community bike share programs as well.  Yokohama has its baybikes, Kyoto its Machikado Minaport program, Sapporo its Porocle, and Osaka its Umegle-Chari, just to name a few.  Most offer a similar type of program with a practical, mamachari type bicycle with basket.

Kyoto's Minaport Panasonic bikes

Kyoto’s Minaport Panasonic bikes

If you are a frequent traveler and interested in bike share programs worldwide, you might want to check out the Google Bike-sharing World Map.  Other interesting English-language resources include the following:

The Bike-sharing Blog – created by a bike share consultancy in Washington D.C.

NACTO Bike Share Info – USA-based National Association of City Transportation Officials

Do you have experience using a bike share program in Japan?

“Loco” Cyclists, and Other “Crazy” Japanesisms

Today I was scanning some cycling blogs, wondering how the throngs celebrating Golden Week were coping with the extreme weather, and I came across a term I hadn’t seen before: ロコサイクリスト (roko saikurisuto), or “Loco Cyclist”.  As an American West Coaster the first thing that came to mind was “crazy cyclists”, but it turns out that is not it at all.  The “loco” is apparently short for “local”, since the definition I found for this term was 地元の (jimoto no), and it appears to refer to people who are natives of a given region willing to share local knowledge and guide newcomers around.

Here are some other English-derived terms which might be misinterpreted by native speakers of English:

パンク (panku), “punk” = flat tire (from “puncture”)

マイペース (maipeesu), “my pace” = describes a person who does things in his/her own (self-indulgent) way or at his/her own pace (usually inconveniencing others!)

ジャージー (jaajii) = jersey

メット (metto), “met” = helmet

ピットイン (pittoin), “pit in” = pit stop or SAG station

 

Wooden Bicycles

Sano Sueshirō (佐野末四郎) is a 9th generation wooden boat builder. He is also a designer and builder of wooden furniture, speakers and – since 2007 – mahogany bicycles.  In an interview for the company Cat Eye, Sano said he began making bikes because he saw the industry focusing on carbon fiber and other stiff materials in the belief that that technology would make bikes faster.  Reflecting on his own experience with wood, he thought he could do better. Apparently – according to this New York Times Magazine blog entry – he has done a convincing job of it.

Continue reading

Tartaruga Folding Bikes

type_s_trip_tartaruga

Photo from the Tartaruga website.

Tartaruga is Italian for “turtle”.  I first learned of this brand from a post on the blog Folding Biker Japan.  Tartaruga’s originator, Yoshimatsu Naotaka (吉松尚孝), designed “amusement machines” (for game arcades) at Namco (ナムコ) before breaking out on his own to design bicycles.  The model seen here is the “Type Sport”, but the company also makes a semi-recumbant “Type Folding” model as well.

Continue reading

Shimanami Kaidō (しまなみ海道) Cycle Path

View of Onomichi from Mukaishima. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vickerman625.

View of Onomichi from Mukaishima. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vickerman625.

One Japanese blogger , who uses the moniker 吾輩は猫であるさん (from Wagahai wa Neko de aru, the title of a famous novel by Natsume Soseki), referred to this bike trail as a サイクリストの聖地 (saikurisuto no seichi), or “a cyclist’s holy land”.  The 海道 (Kaidō) in the name means “sea way” or “sea path”, and the trail obligingly hops islands from one side of the 瀬戸内海 (Seto Naikai, “Seto Inland Sea”) to the other.  After reading so much about the trail itself and individual cyclists’ experiences on it, I’m adding this ride to my bucket list for my next stay in Western Japan! (´∀`)ワクワ

Continue reading

Cycling Events in Japan, April 2014

Traveling in Japan this spring?  Interested in getting some exercise and making connections with other cyclists? If so, here are three options for April 2014:

グラン・ツール・せとうち2014 (Guran Tsuuru Setouchi, Grand Tour Setouchi):  April 19, 20 (register by March 31)

  • Starts in 尾道市向島運動公園 (Onomichi-shi Mukaishima Undō Kōen, Onomichi City Mukaishima Exercise Park) and runs along the しまなみ海道 (Shimanami Kaidō, Shimanami Sea Path) and nearby roads
  • Saturday or Sunday short course (70km): ¥4000 (about USD $39)
  • Saturday long course (120km): ¥5000 (about USD $49)
  • Two day short course (includes single-sex group accommodations and breakfast/dinner): ¥17,000 (60-80 people per room)/¥18,000 (8-12 people per room)  (about USD $166/176)
  • Two day long course (includes single-sex group 0accommodations and breakfast/dinner): ¥18,000/¥19,000 (about USD $176/185)
  • Participant limit: 1,500 riders

Continue reading

Shikoku: Bikes Allowed on the Ishizuchi Express During Event Season

Photo from My Navi News, Jan. 28

Photo from My Navi News, Jan. 28 (see link in article)

Typically in Japan, one cannot take a bicycle onto an express train unless it is disassembled or folded and placed in a bike bag.  However, according to news articles in マイナビニュース (Mai Nabi Nyuusu) and the 朝日新聞 (Asahi Shinbun), starting on March 21st and running until October 26, the 「いしづち特急」 (Ishizuchi Special Express), an 8000 series train of the JR 予讃線(JR Yosansen), will run three round trip trains a day on which one can stow a fully assembled bike. This train runs between Imabari and Matsuyama.

This is being done in support of the event called 「瀬戸内しまのわ2014」which is being sponsored by Ehime and Hiroshima Prefectures. According to the official site, multiple events – including some cycling-themed – will be held to promote the “charm of the inland sea isles” ,「島々の魅力」(shimajima no miryoku).

Continue reading