Trenton Dean has lived in Japan for just under six years, and recently returned to Bendigo where the pace and population are somewhat much more relaxed. Living in and around Tokyo City where the population has just recently exceeded 13 million compared to the population of 22.6 million for the whole of Australia, cycling was an experience that we could not comprehend. We can take so much for granted where within 3-4 kilometres we can be on the outskirts of Bendigo riding on open country roads.
Trenton’s working day was from 8.00 am and most nights he would not get home until around 7.00 pm. Living 25 minutes south of the main CBD of the city made cycling a little more appealing for Trenton, in the warmer months to commute to work or get an early morning ride in prior to starting work.
Traffic density is quite high and there are no designated bike lanes which did not seem to faze Trenton. Trenton said “that your awareness levels needed to be high particularly watching for parked cars and doors being opened as the ability to shift on the road in the high traffic flow was not easy”. Japanese drivers seem to be generally courteous and quiet tolerant of cyclists and in his six years Trenton saw no evidence of any road rage. Every time there is an accident involving a car the police are called, insurance details are exchanged and the accident is documented by the police.
The other frustrating aspect of cycling for Trenton was (as he put it) the insane amount of traffic lights that seem to control traffic flow with such a huge population. To get outside the city was a 30-40 km ride but was a very disjointed ride, having to stop – start all the time. Locals make a cycling outing a full day’s event taking a train to an outer destination and then riding and doing their thing and then catch the train home.
When asked about comparisons Japan laws and acceptance of cyclists seems very similar Australia. You are allowed to ride on all roads, at any time of the day and night, except highways. The only difference is that you have to register your bicycle. The police use your registration to check ownership if in the case of an accident or traffic infringement. You don’t have to be a member of a club to go for a ride although there are several cycling organisations in Japan. You have to register and pay an annual fee to race with each organisation.
On Sundays hundreds of cyclists converge on a 10 km circuit around the Tokyo port area of Oi-Futo to train. Tokyo Cycling Club is a site for cycling enthusiasts living in Tokyo. People post details of past and upcoming rides. The post is usually accompanied by a map and brief description of the terrain and time envisaged for the ride to be starting and finishing.
We have some much to be grateful for here in Bendigo to be low pollution risk and traffic flow and share the similar acceptance of our shared road community.
Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing