Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | October 22, 2008

Bi-cycle! Bi-cycle!

It’s about time that I upload a photo or two of my baby. This premium piece of metal doesn’t just get me from Point A to Point B. It gets there with a rusty clank or two, a couple sputtering, loose gearshifts, and barely functioning brakes.

Our favorite neighbor, Terry, gave the bicycle to me when I asked him where I could park a bike if I were to buy one. Instead, he said that there would not be a place to park a new bike, but that I should take his since he can’t ride it anymore (for being in his early 80s, he still gets around pretty well). What a nice man. So, it’s not perfect, but beggars certainly can’t be choosers.

Riding a bicycle in Japan is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, we need to go grocery shopping often and don’t live super close to any major grocery stores. We don’t own a car, and not many people bring groceries on the train for a reason we haven’t yet discovered. So, bicycle travel is the cheapest, fastest, most eco-friendly way to travel and transport our goodies.

However, it’s also mildly terrifying having to dart in and out of traffic that moves in ways that are literally counter-intuitive. Even when you remember that the cars drive on the left rather than the right, it’s the turns that get you. You get ready for the car in front of you to make a wide turn when it puts on a certain turn signal, and instead, it turns right into the curb next to you or vice versa. I automatically veer right when there’s an oncoming person, bike, or car, but here, people tend to veer left. That obviously doesn’t make a great combination- especially on narrow sidewalks.

I’m learning to make these “natural” reactions and have made some progress. Part of this is simply slowing down all the time and being able to stop quickly when I can’t interpret how the person coming at me will shift their weight until the last second. I’ve also learned to navigate the right streets so that I can avoid having to bike in between cars as much as possible.

Before coming to Tokyo, I hadn’t owned a bicycle in almost 10 years. But biking is a necessary part of life here. Everyone bikes, so let’s just hope I get used to all the rules of the road eventually.

A great piece about bicycling in Japan

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