Monocolumn: It’s The Wheel Thing

Monocolumn: It’s The Wheel Thing

The passion for bicycles in Tokyo is hitting new heights thanks to bicycle rental initiatives combined with a creative project set to transform the capital into the template of a modern cycling metropolis.

  • 2 june 2010

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

Monocolumn- It’s The Wheel Thing

Forget maps and phrasebooks. The most important survival skill in Tokyo is the ability to dodge cyclists flying along the pavement on their beloved bicycles. Tokyo has long been a city for cyclists. From salarymen to baby-juggling housewives, residents frequently shun punctual but packed trains in favour of the freedom of cycling.

But the passion for bicycles is hitting new heights thanks to bicycle rental initiatives combined with a creative project set to transform the capital into the template of a modern cycling metropolis.

Signs of Tokyo’s bicycle boom include the emergence of “cycling chic” fashion labels, magazines devoted to two wheels and the renewal of old bicycle brands.

The nation’s biking love affair is likely to be cemented further by the launch in March of Japan’s first Parisian-style bicycle-sharing rental scheme operated by Vélib’ in Toyama city. Sanyo also recently unveiled an innovative new solar powered electric bicycle rental scheme that is now operating from two stations in the capital.

And Tokyo’s two-wheeled revolution is not slowing down: on Monday evening, around 60 bicycle lovers gathered in a bright white Aoyama showroom to launch a new initiative that aims to make cycling as forward-thinking as it is fashionable.

The meeting was organised by X2 Tokyo, an urban collective of 10 influential bicycle aficionados – among them designers, art directors, moviemakers and editors – sponsored by tyre company Bridgestone.

The group announced plans to commission four creatives – artist Maywa Denki, architecture duo Assistant, design engineer Motohide Hatanaka of Takram and dancer Chie Ito – to produce imaginative proposals relating to Tokyo cycling.

The four will hold a series of public “cycle lab” workshops throughout the summer, with their resulting creations unveiled in October during a Tokyo Design Week exhibition.

A new website devoted to Tokyo cycling – including interviews and interactive maps – was also launched this week by X2 Tokyo, as an extension of a design magazine it produced last year called Jitensha (”bicycle” in Japanese).

“Our goal is to make Tokyo a stylish bicycle city,” Takanori Hayashi, X2 Tokyo director, tells Monocle. 
”We want to transform the popularity of cycling into a fundamental movement, not just a temporary trend.” 
But the infrastructure of the city has yet to catch up with its affection for two-wheeled travel, according to Megumi Matsubara of Assistant.

“A bicycle is like a washing machine for the senses. Living in a busy city like Tokyo, you are exposed to a huge amount of information flow. Cycling helps you wash away the unnecessary dirt and refresh your mind.

“But bicycle lanes in the city are not improved yet and bicycles are not allowed on public transport, which limits their use.”

And so with its creative workshops to solar powered bicycles, 2010 seems destined to become a landmark year for Tokyo’s cycling population – which means that pedestrians on Tokyo’s pavements will have even more bikes to dodge.

Danielle Demetriou is a Monocle correspondent based in Tokyo

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Click here to read more, or here to subscribe to the monthly magazine.

image by – reuben –


PSFK's Workplace Vision: Leave The Busywork To The Bots

Syndicated Yesterday

In Popular Games, The Recurring Theme Is Exploration

The much-hyped sci-fi sandbox game proved to be as massive as expected, while Pokémon Go continued to prove inescapable

Design Yesterday

The Best In Wearable Tech From The Rio Olympics

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the best gadgets and devices used to track performance


Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Retail: Technology Primer

See All
Advertising Yesterday

This Cookbook Is Inspired By Brad Pitt’s On-Screen Eating Habits

Learn how to whip up meals and snacks pulled straight from the actor's fictional universe

USA Yesterday

Tour The US National Parks From The Comfort Of Your Home

Google's new 360-degree video feature lets people take a trip to Alaska, Utah or Hawaii and see these marvels of nature up close

Augmented & Virtual Reality Yesterday

VR Training For Active Shooter Preparedness

SurviVR is an immersive environment to teach civilians how to protect themselves in dangerous situations

Cities Yesterday

Redesigned London Tube Map Aims To Get People Walking

The updated display illustrates approximately how many steps it takes to walk between stations for a healthier commute

Experiential Marketing Yesterday

Nike Creates An Immersive Pop-Up Fitness Experience In London

The Unlimited You space gave athletes a chance to push their limits farther than ever before


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

PSFK Op-Ed august 24, 2016

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs Yesterday

The 10 Steps To Discover, Hire, Develop Your Next Leader

PSFK's Future of Work report outlines key steps in the employee development path to empower next-gen leaders

Automotive Yesterday

Uber Now Lets Commuters Pay With Pretax Dollars

The prepaid cards are a partnership with WageWorks, letting uberPool users save up to 40% on their trip

Home Yesterday

Philips Hue Adds Motion Sensor To Control Lights Automatically

The wireless device lets users interact with their environment without needing to press a switch

Home Yesterday

Beacon Device Takes The Pain Out Of Navigating A New Airbnb

Ping provides new guests with a guided tour of the house or apartment through a simple tap of their phone

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Shelf Makes Its Contents Appear To Hover In Midair

The design uses metal tubes to create an optical illusion when viewed from the front

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Interactive Ceiling Responds To People Walking Underneath

The installation features built-in sensors that cause the undulating surface to morph and react to passersby


Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games

Fashion Yesterday

Declutter And Recycle All Of Your Unwanted Stuff

A new app will help catalogue your possessions and give them away as donations when you no longer want them

Advertising Yesterday

Tokyo Concept Store Disguised As A Parking Garage

The retail and cafe project is designed as a hidden treasure for urban explorers

No search results found.