Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Won't Miss #52 - bicycle parking problems (reflection)

Bikes being taken away for illegal parking. To retrieve them, you had to wait several weeks and then pay $25-$30 to get your bike back.

For many years during my time in Japan, I suffered from severe back pain. I'm not talking about the type of thing where you exert yourself and your back hurts later. I'm talking about the thing where you wake up every morning, walk for a minute and agony sets in. If you walk or stand for too long, you suffer burning, agonizing pain during every moment that you are sitting. There was a time when I'd get up in the morning, go to work in pain, and sit there for 6 of my 8 hours in horrific pain. This ended in my taking two months off and working from home in bed.

During this time period, which lasted, oh, about 9 of my 12 years at the company I was at, using a bicycle was my salvation. I even rode the bike to work rather than endure the suffering of walking 15 minutes from the local train station to the office. Even forty minutes of sweating through the Tokyo summer (one-way) was better than the pain I endured. Unfortunately, my ability to use a bike to mitigate my pain was monumentally undercut by the increasingly limited and difficult bicycle parking situation. As I mentioned in my original post, it went from a situation in which I could park nearly anywhere for any length of time to nowhere for niggling amounts of time. Eventually, the parking situation became so hard that I took to struggling to walk the 9 minutes to the subway (stopping three times to rest to reduce some of the agony as it got worse the longer I walked).

I don't miss how owning a bicycle turned into a nearly useless thing because someone decided that having bicycles parked along the street in Tokyo was too troublesome or aesthetically displeasing to permit it. 


  1. I'm not sure how bicycles are any less "aesthetically displeasing" than the 8-million traffic cones lining the streets of Tokyo.

  2. Bicycle parking is awful here! I don't get it since almost everyone has a bicycle.

  3. wow, I had never heard of the difficulties in parking a bike in Tokyo. A good friend's mother rode a bike all around Kanda for many years as a way to get her shopping done, etc. He never told me of his Mom having her bike confiscated, etc.

  4. As Khaleesi said, it is pretty awful. When I arrived in 1988, and for about the first 5 years, it was pretty easy to park nearly anywhere. It became increasingly Draconian as time went on. First, they limited the areas and then those areas got smaller and smaller. Eventually, you weren't allowed to park on the streets at all and then you could only park in cramped paid parking ($1/100 yen per day). Getting a permit to park in the closest spots was almost impossible so it would be cases where you'd spend your money to park about 6 minutes away and you'd have to muscle into an elevated spot (each spot had a high and low spot and the low ones were often taken). With back issues, the 6 minutes was a problem as was the having to use the higher rack (as you'd have to semi-lift the bike into and out of it). In the end, it was easier to struggle 11 minutes to the subway than deal with the distant parking to the train for me. There was no parking for the subway at all. Your bike would get carried away if you stayed for more than a short time.

    I don't know if Kanda is different, or if your friend's mother did it during the years when it wasn't so bad, but I had an awful time in the Shinjuku/Suginami ward areas. It really became pretty much useless to have a bike. When one of ours was stolen (which happened not infrequently), we didn't bother replacing it because of the parking.

    And, yes, I agree about the aesthetics, Martin! They replaced one "ugly" with another!

  5. When I was in Japan, I saw bikes parked literally on top of "no bike parking" signs...

    1. I've seen that, too, but, in my area, if you do that at the wrong time - well, those bike cops will be taking your bike away. I think some people know when they are coming (they do have a schedule) and some just take chances. Otherwise, those guys would be out of business. ;-)

  6. I lived in Shibuya ward for 11 months and managed to never get my bike taken up by the city. Then I moved to Suginami and my bike was taken up first by Nakano ward (which cost 5000 yen to get back! I didn't have to wait though) and then by Suginami when I parked it too close to Koenji Station, which cost 3000 yen (again, no minimum waiting period). Sooooo annoying. I could have bought a new bike with that money...

    But now I know where I can park my bike that's not within the city collection zone, so things have been good so far...


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