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?

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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.

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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.

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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).

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The Gios Antico mini velo

Gios Antico mini velo

Gios Antico mini velo

While reading some Japanese “pottering” blogs this week, I noticed that several riders speak fondly about a particularly type of bike they have.  The model is called “Antico”, and it is made by the Italian company Gios. It is a ミニベロ (mini bero, from “mini velo”) or 小径車 (shoukeisha, small wheeled bicycle).  Initially, I thought it must be one of the multitudinous folding bikes so popular in the uber-urban streets of Tokyo.  However, it turns out that it has a regular sized road bike frame, redesigned to work with the small tires.

This bike has 16 speeds and a frame made of クロモリ (kuromori, chromium molybdenum steel). The 20″ tires give it a much smaller profile than a typical road bike, making it easier to park or make pinpoint turns on the city sidewalk (which riders can and do use in Japan).  It also means you can more easily take it on a train (something “potterers” like to do), without having to remove the wheels and bag it up.

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