Like people all over Japan, there are a lot of people cycling in Tokyo. Most Tokyo cyclists are riders of what is colloquially called the mama-chari, or "mom bike": the plain jane descendant of the original safety bike. These very often have a child seat on the back, front or both front and back, and increasingly incorporate a small auxiliary electric engine.
Bicycle riders in Japan should, legally, ride on the road, but road riders tend to be those with faster, leaner bikes with ten or more gears, or fixed gear racing bikes. Most Tokyo cyclists ride on the sidewalk, and somehow manage to usually make it through even quite densely populated sidewalks without collision.
An ongoing bone of contention between local authorities and shopkeepers on the one hand, and cyclists on the other, in Tokyo is bicycle parking. Official pay-for bicycle parking spaces are few and far between, giving cyclists who are typically shoppers no option but to park their bike on the sidewalk. This sometimes results in notices being pinned to bikes stating that the bike will be removed and disposed of by a certain date. In many cases it it resolved by direct action by the aggrieved tenant of the property the bike is parked in front of by moving it somewhere else - often purposely remote - or, if it is locked to a railing, even by vandalizing it, e.g. slashing the tires.
The problem of bicycle parking in Tokyo has started to be addressed anew recently, it seems. There has been a noticeable increase in recent months in the number of coin-operated bicycle parks, which removes the excuse of absence of facilities able to be appealed to by parking transgressors, and, hopefully, will become a source of revenue for the construction of further such facilities.
Like this blog? Sign up for the JapanVisitor newsletter
Books on Japan