Tokyo is full of cycle-paths

Bicycle sharing is proliferating in different cities in Canada recently. Toronto bike has recently launched in the city. In Japan, the bike sharing system has already been around for a good while and a crowd pedaling red bicycles around Tokyo can be spotted every morning. Those rental bikes are part of the bike-sharing system which can be borrowed and returned to any port participating in the plan. The parking ports can be found around parks, near train stations or outside main buildings. In a world filled with automobile, especially a city as busy as Tokyo, how can biking be so popular?

I do not really know how to bike. I can stay on a bike no more than 5 minutes. Every time my bike hurts me, I punch it right back. It is a vicious cycle. (Pun alert!)

I can still vividly remember that 4 years ago, summer 2016, I was walking by the water near the Giant Sky Wheel in Palette Town and that was my first time seeing a bike sharing system. My friend and I was wandering at night trying to do some sightseeing. There were a few bikes parked nicely on the sidewalk. We went over and learnt that those were rental bikes. We did not understand Japanese, so we did not know how to use it but I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

According to an article from Japan Times, the bicycle-sharing is part of “the country’s nascent experiments into the so-called sharing economy, with Japan looking to widen its transportation options.” In the same article, the author mentioned an interview Japan Times had with the president and representative of the electric bike share company Docomo, Kiyotaka Hori. Hori mentioned that the company originally was “more social rather than profit driven.” Hori said that Docomo wanted to provide an environmentally friendly service and provide a transportation option that can solve environmental issues. Hori and his team started to look into the concept of “sharing” to cut the carbon dioxide release and to contribute to the environment.

Standing outside Shinagawa Station, there was a wave of red-bike-bikers pedaling towards the same direction. Some of them were wearing suits with their brief cases in the small basket on their bikes. Some of them were wearing heels on their way to work. Some of them have a flowers and food in their baskets. This scene speaks signifies the success of the Hori’s company.

How to use bike share?

Unlike the Bike Share Toronto, there is no designated biking stations for registration. Docomo Bikeshare user can download a phone application or register online to use the red bikes. Once the users have access to a code, they can enter the number on the card reader installed on each bicycle and it will unlock automatically. The users can also tap their registered card or iPhone to unlock the bikes. Once the user arrives the destination, they have to find a parking port to lock it and log out from their account to end the trip.

There are Bike-carrying trucks circling Tokyo city 24 hours to check on the bikes and redistribute them when some parking ports get overcrowded.

Bike sharing history

Amsterdam is known for their biking culture. It is the most common transportation used in the city. It is also where bike-sharing has all started. To improve Amsterdam’s transportation system in the 1960s, Amsterdam started the “White Bicycle Plan” for citizens to bike around the city free of charge. However, the plan did not go well. Many bikes were damaged or being stolen.

Only decades later when technology allow a better tracking system that bicycle-sharing is once again available. And only last month that Toronto have hopped on the bike-sharing trend. Have you tried one of those bikes yet?