Here are tips and tricks from people who actually experienced cycling in Tokyo !* Want to share your impression of cycling in Tokyo ? We're waiting for your reports. Please send them to : email@example.com
I thoroughly enjoyed riding and sightseeing in Tokyo for about 7 hours with ts Nakamura, an experienced Tokyo cyclist, in July 2006. As a fairly experienced and regular Honolulu cyclist, I felt safe following Ats on sidewalks, at intersections, and on the street from the Imperial Palace to Shinjuku to Tsukiji. Having cycled 1-2 hours per day in smaller Japanese cities and towns during the previous two weeks definitely helped get me comfortable riding with pedestrians on sidewalks (mode for vast majority of the many Japanese cyclists), and on the roads.
I would have felt comfortable on the sidewalks in Tokyo without Ats, but probably would not have cycled by myself on the roads in Tokyo until I had watched other road cyclists a bit. Ats explained to me that the law doesn't allow cyclists on the sidewalks, but most cyclists ride there, and many sidewalks are 6-8 feet wide to accommodate them. On the other hand, cyclists are legally required to be on the road, but most drivers expect cyclists to stay on the sidewalks. Nonetheless, because of the many more cyclists in general , including many grandmas and grandpas, I felt that cars noticed us and gave us space. The one difference I noticed from riding in downtown Honolulu traffic, is that we seldom took the lane, and stayed on the (left) side of the car lane as much as possible. Riding on the roads was very practical -- where it was dangerous, we got off and walked our bikes like pedestrians.
For the first time rider in Japan I would recommend:
ok...regarding some useful information for riding (and getting lost) in tokyo...well then....this is what i found...
* have a friend from tokyo show you around!!! that would be ichiban!
* if you don't have a friend, buy a good map! say - 1:15000 scale (in english if possible)
* buy (from the 100 yen store) a compass!!! pretty useful- how else are you going to use a map??? (but - see my other hi-tech plan below)
* don't mount the compass on your handle bar next to a wireless cycle computer...else you may end up going in circles - btdt
* learn some basic nihongo: "summimasen...ima, koko ni imasuka???" while pointing to your map
* before you turn a pedal..make sure you know that you will ride on the LEFT side of the road!
* if you cannot take the wonderful smell of diesel exhaust...don't ride on any busy streets (or even sidewalks next to busy streets) in tokyo ;-)
* many (most?) roads are narrower than those in the US...therefore...???
* i found the drivers, in general, to be very courteous of cyclist and most seem to know how to drive with cyclist on the road
* while riding on the sidewalk...ALWAYS watch out for OTHER cyclist...especially the ones (many "ones") dialing their cell phones
* riding on the sidewalk when it's raining can be VERY slippery due to all the manhole covers and smooth concrete or brick pavement
* most women on mamachari bikes will out run you if you try to follow them in the rain or through a busy sidewalk!
* if you wear a helmet, you will probably be one of the few...
* watch out for speedy motorcycles which are constantly weaving through traffic and sometimes even around you!
* don't be shocked when motorcyclist and bicycles all move to the front of the line at traffic lights
* learn the basic traffic signs and street markings - so you don't go down a one way street!
* most people driving large benzs speed WAY to fast on tiny back roads
* bike is the BEST way to sight see in kyoto - so long as you know where you're going (for me, tokyo was just TOO big for my brain to manage)
* if i had to do it again, i thinking that maybe i would go hi-tech and buy a handheld gps and punch in all my points of interest using the lat/long from google earth..hopefully the data on google earth is accurate!
* don't ever take your bike onto a train during the morning rush hour!
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