In all our enthusiasm for Copenhagen and Amsterdam, we forget that there are other “bicycle paradises” in the world—places where folks of all sorts and every ge ride bicycles daily and routinely, never making a big spectacle of the simple act of pedal-powered transport.
I visited one such place a few years ago and took some pictures. It is, interestingly, one of the most tech-obsessed cultures anywhere, a hub of manufacturing quality, where, however, even its major car manufacturer recommends that its employees bicycle or ride transit to work rather than drive!
That carmaker is Toyota, and the country is, of course, Japan.
Bicycles are everywhere in Japan—parked at train stations, cruising along separated bike paths (and, illegally, on sidewalks), parked in offices and apartment complexes and shopping malls or outside storefronts…basically, everywhere. While I was there, a local noted that a forty-story skyscraper that had recently gone up in Tokyo had all of seventy parking spots underneath it.
Yet business is brisk in stores, even after the country’s “Lost Decade” (their credit bubble preceded ours). In fact, with less room taken up by roads and parking there is more room for retail—and the Japanese are famous consumers. (Though, in part by not owning many cars, they can be famous savers as well!)
So, here’s a little photoset of bicycles as I found them in Japan a few short years ago:
Part of the bike parking for an apartment complex in Osaka.
Bike parking in a mall in Osaka. I didn’t see any car parking at all.
This is what I saw when I wandered into an office building in Osaka.
Paid and guarded bike parking in Kyoto.
A residential street in Tokyo.
Another residential area in the midst of one of the world’s biggest cities.
I saw everyone from graysuited managers with briefcases to moms portaging a couple of kids to old ladies to young hipsters, all riding bicycles everywhere in every weather. Not fast, not furiously, not fearfully.
It was mighty nice!