How Can Tokyo Be Ranked the 9th Most Bicycle Friendly City?

Tokyo has returned to the biennial Copenhagenize Bicycle Friendly Cities Index in position 9 after having been ejected from the 2015 ranking of the most thriving cycling cities around the world.

Ranked 4th in 2011 and 12th in 2013 Tokyo slipped from the rankings in 2015 primarily due to local authorities regressive stance regarding cycling policy. While cities around the world had embraced cycling and placed it firmly on the agenda Tokyo literally failed to do anything to support the city’s astonishing number of everyday cyclists.

Conversely during the period from 2013 to 2015 cycling was painted in an increasingly bad light by local media after a high profile accident in which a 67 year old woman was killed by a cyclist after which the cyclists mother was then by the Kobe District Court to pay a record 95 million yen in compensation to the victims family. This single incident firmly set the media against cycling for an extended period with articles appearing almost weekly claiming an “alarming increase” in cycling accidents and demanding that cyclists be bound by stronger laws.

Call me cynical but I believe this incident opened up a lucrative market for cycling insurance, hitherto unheard of, and that insurance companies had a vested interest in seeing that this and other “dangerous cyclist” stories never disappear from our newspapers. Many articles appearing at the time read like infomercials for lawyers and insurance companies.

Not wanting to be seen as sitting on their hands the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department began a shocking series of crackdowns on cyclists. Beginning in February 2012 police took to he streets on the 10th of each month, setting up effective roadblocks targeting cyclists for numerous offences including cycling with headphones, without brakes, and carrying passengers. A three strike policy was implemented which would …continue reading