Tokyo returns to the Index in 2017. And with good reason. Every statistic about cycling in Tokyo you hear is impressive and quite stunning.
20% of the metropolitan area’s 20 million rail commuters cycle to the station. That is more people than live in Berlin riding a bike to a train station every working day.
In the areas of the city popular with tourists, like Shibuya, cycling levels look good when you’re on the street. It is, however, in the neighbourhoods where the vast majority of Tokyoites live that you really understand why Japan is the world’s third great cycling nation and Tokyo is the crown jewel. The modal share can easily hit 30% in many neighbourhoods. Bicycles are everywhere.
The formation of the Cycling Embassy of Japan (CEJ) has been key in placing focus on Japan and Tokyo as bicycle urbanism meccas - both at home and abroad. Strangely, the bicycle as transport is still under the radar for authorities. They fail to see the benefits of having high cycling levels and disregard it in planning. The CEJ aims to create awareness and to both export and import experience.
With that said, Tokyo’s new Governor Yuriko Koike has been talking the talk about cycling, which we find promising. What will happen remains to be seen. The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 are a prime opportunity for Tokyo to finally recognize cycling as transport. Where London and Rio failed to use cycling as a way of moving a lot of people around during their Olympics, Japan has the opportunity to do so - and to cement cycling for transport for future generations.
Parking facilities for bikes are everywhere and impressive parking cellars with all the trimmings are located near train stations.
The city has counts its modal share as 15% but as mentioned, the number is probably much higher. Tokyo is poised for greatness on a par with Copenhagen and Amsterdam. When the world’s largest metropolitan area can figure it out, there are few excuses for others.
The Draconian rules for cycling that politicians have proposed must be halted and cycling must be taken seriously as transport on all political levels.
The city needs to stop looking to America for road planning inspiration and instead look to Europe. Separated cycle tracks on busy streets would transform the city for the better.