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 –


Volvo's Self-Driving Trucks Will Soon Be Put To Work In An Underground Mine

Automotive Yesterday

Toyota Is Using Sewage To Power Its New Electric Car

A new hydrogen-fueled vehicle is driven by what we flush away

Culture Yesterday

Catch A Concert On This Small Floating Island

A man-made archipelago in Italy is hosting music and art performances


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Design & Architecture Yesterday

DIY Kit Lets You Build Your Own Wooden Bike, Boat Or Caravan

Woodenwidget says its detailed guides are suitable for beginners and experienced woodworkers alike

Related Expert

Ayah Bdeir

Technology, Making, Education

Design Yesterday

Crash-Friendly Drone Made From LEGOs Is Completely Rebuildable

The clever device offers games, education and the uniquely rewarding experience of destroying your high-flying airship

Fitness / Sport Yesterday

Free Sneakers Given Out To Motivated Marathon Runners

Strava will give the shoes to athletes who run the second half of their race faster than the first

Culture Yesterday

Someone Invented A Robot Just To Serve Trays Of Beef Jerky

Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz, in partnership with Chef's Cut Real Jerky, creates an automated snack delivery system


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Digital Design Expert: Mobile First Is Dead, Think Mobile Native

Brian Cooper, chief creative officer of OLIVER Group UK, explains how some brands are still playing catch-up to new technology

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

Millennials Yesterday

Why A Social Networking Site Decided To Rebrand

Meetup, a platform that connects like-minded individuals, has taken steps to stay relevant amongst millennials

Work Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: The People-First Workplace Should Borrow From Tradition

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX underline the old-fashioned ideas that deserve a place in the Future of Work

Fashion Yesterday

Handbags Crafted From An Old NFL Stadium

People for Urban Progress is an up-cycling program that tackles the waste problem of big demolitions

Work Yesterday

Tech Job Site Created Just For Those Who Are Older Than 30

A new occupational job board presents a creative solution to age discrimination in the tech world

Europe Yesterday

Architect Turns A Giant Smile Into A Public Exhibition

The structure offers visitors a new perspective of London and creates an immersive environment that integrates structure, surface, space and light


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Children Yesterday

Norwegian Kids Are Using Their Phones To Log Unsafe Street Conditions

Travel Agent is an app that gamifies the reporting of hazardous conditions to improve the safety of children's commute to school

Travel Yesterday

Google Wants To Help You Plan Your Next Trip

A new app curates vacation itineraries and organizes reservation emails to take the work out of planning a getaway

Technology Yesterday

Small Handheld Analyzer Checks Oral Hygiene On The Go

The breath-detecting gadget gives people a quick and easy peek into their dental health

No search results found.