So I have been biking for over a week now to my classes and I do have to say, it is exciting and thrilling to bike in Tokyo. I am not much of a biker. In fact I do not have much balance. I think with the combination of these two facts I feel very accomplished every day I return home, alive. Now, I don’t think a lot of what I am going to say in this post will relate solely to Tokyo, but instead to big cities in general. However, there might be some things here that you will not see in other cities.
First I would like to share some typical cyclists I have seen in the streets of Tokyo. There are of course the salary men, wearing suits and riding their bikes to work. There are the mothers who can carry up to three children on a bike, but more typically one or two. They do this by having their children in the front basket, in the child seat behind, and sometimes on their laps. I consider the mothers with more then one child on a bike, supermoms. Many students ride to school in the morning. There are the ‘cyclists’ who are usually the only ones who wear helmets in addition to all their bike gear. These people only ride on the roads, and compete with the speed capabilities of a car. There are the deliverymen. I think lots of deliverymen have motorbikes, but some ride a bicycle. I have even seen men carrying open trays of food in ceramic bowls with only plastic wrap covering them while weaving through crowds of people (on a bicycle). These men have become my epitome of skill. Finally, there are the grandparents. Oh, and now me!
Since I have started to ride a bike I have learned through others and observations the rules of the road. First off you have to ride a registered bike, and if you are borrowing a bike you need a note saying that you are allowed to ride it. I am told that foreigners usually are asked for their bike registration by policemen. However, I have not been asked. All the other rules center around this golden rule; maneuver around everyone. Sidewalks are pretty spacious and have some space for bikes, but there are a lot of people in Tokyo. Usually people walk the same as traffic passing on the left, however this also varies. So, sometimes it is best to ride on the street. I usually try to ride on the left side of the road, even if I am riding sidewalks so that I can easily ride on the road if it gets too crowded on a sidewalk. Even if there is not a huge crowd you should know, pedestrians might chose to not move out of your way. They might chose to move out of the way for the bike in front of you, and then walk straight into you. Terrible I know, and it was probably my fault for not noticing how close they were to me, but I have clipped a person. I assumed they saw me and I was passing another person from behind, while following another bike, and crossing a bridge.
All in all though, if you fall just get back up! And avoid birds too, they will fly up into your face and you can lose your balance.
P.S. I love commuting on bike!