Japan: Bikes Here, There and Everywhere

I recently returned from an amazing trip to Osaka, Japan with my wife, Maggie, and her awesome parents/tour guides, Bill and Kazuko. We saw many great sights, we ate way too much good food, and saw more of the country than the most seasoned Japanese tourist.
Reclining Buddha
Before we left for our travels, I thought that I had a good idea what bicycle culture would be like in Japan. But, wow, I had no idea. The sheer volume of cyclists blew me away. Bicycles are an integral part of life in Japan. Everyone of all ages and backgrounds ride bikes. Bicycles seem to be the number one choice for transportation. It’s a common site to see suit-wearing businessmen pedaling to work in the morning, busy moms picking up the kids from school on their bike in the afternoon, and teenagers with their date sitting sidesaddle on the rear rack. Bikes are everywhere.Most of the folks in Japan ride their bikes on the sidewalks. To an outsider it may look a bit chaotic and dangerous but all the mayhem seems to work. Pedestrians and bikes seem to flow on the bustling city streets. Just remember these rules; if you are out on foot to keep to the left side of the sidewalk (walk with the traffic not upstream), if you hear a bell ringing be sure to get out of the way. Sometimes you are given a warning to move when you hear the high pitched squeal of drum brakes.
In many business districts, bike parking can be a real problem. The sidewalks are overflowing with parked bikes. Many business owners, tired of having clusters of bike blocking their storefronts, place no parking signs outside of their storefronts. However, they are largely ignored. To help with this dilemma of parking, many buildings in the city have covered parking shelters. And, in order to provide ample bike storage, they have double-decker areas. Another convenient place for parking bikes was found underground in the walkway entrance for the subway. They even had ramps built into the center of the stairway to aid in the descent/ascent of pushing your bike. So many people use the subway and the bicycle for their daily commute. It was great to see so many people traveling without a car.On our travels, we managed to tie in a handful of bicycle related sight-seeing. We rented bikes a couple of times, we visited the Shimano funded bike museum in Sakai, and we watched Kirin racing. Check out the photos in the gallery. All in all, we had a great trip. The amazing variety of bicycles ranging from the cushy electric assist bikes, track bikes, utility-delivery bikes, to the super-compact folding bikes made for a trip filled with daily surprises.Enjoy the pictures in the photo gallery .


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