15 March 2011

Bicycles in Japan


Already one of the world's great bicycle nation, Japan is seeing a bicycle boom in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. Here are some photos featuring bicycles in the ravaged tsunami zone.







37 comments:

Anonymous said...

bad taste

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous commenter. Especially if you read in your RSS feed at the bottom "Copenhagenize the planet and have a lovely day"

Anonymous said...

I agree... this feels like very bad taste to boast of a bicycle boom.

In a normal peaceful place, where people are able to make a choice then you can advocate cycling over cars, and I am with you.... but in the wake of a disaster, where so many have died, any method of transport they can use to get around is fine.

Kevin Cannon said...

Yea, pretty bad taste. There's a time a place to put accross you're POV. This is not it.

Ryan said...

I don't see how it's bad taste.
Media outlets have indicated that bicycles have been sold out in most stores because they have become the most convenient way of getting around now.

Is it also safe to assume that the three "Anonymous" commenter's are the same people?

Edward said...

I don't think it is in poor taste at all. It is a rare good news story in what is a very distressing time. It is celebrating that great invention, the bicycle, and showing how useful it can be even after a disaster as colossal as this one.

I agree with Ryan.

northwest is best said...

I don't think this is bad taste either. These people have suffered terribly, but at least they have access to a mode of transport.

ibikelondon said...

I don't think this post is bad taste - it highlights not how wonderful and resilient the bicycle is (which we all know already), but how fragile car dependent society is in the face of terrible adversity.

Of course it's awful that people have lost their homes and many their lives, but if the bicycle is helping to connect isolated communities or get people out of the danger zone when cars and transit are failing this can only be a good thing, right?

Some people are too quick to jump on the 'bad taste' button at times like this, as if not openly discussing a tragic situation will somehow make it better.

I'm sure Mikael has already made a donation to the International Red Cross to match any funding he might receive from revenue on his site as a consequence of this post, and if in turn this post helps to stimulate debate about the place of the bicycle in both good times and bad then this is only a good thing. Those who are mawkishly crying 'bad taste' would do well to remember that for many in Japan right now the bicycle is acting as a vital lifeline.

KatjaLeyendecker said...

Taste and timing aside:

You simply cannot ignore it: bicycles are superbly basic. Such a simple, basic equipment of transport.

Anonymous said...

Yes bikes are great, think of all the people that outran the wave on bikes.

Anonymous said...

Love of one thing isn't enhanced by hate of another.

Keith said...

Hi wrote the 3rd comment (and no ryan i didn't also write the first two :-P I was just too lazy to register a user name)

This blog is normally about how cars generally suck, and bikes are awesome (which is why i visit it so often), and it normally shows pictures and videos to back this up.
So my gut reaction when i saw the first picture of two cars smashed up, and a cyclist in the background was "oh dear, hope this isn't going to be along the same theme". Then the text didn't help, as it just said bikes are popular in japan, and now they;re even more popular.
Even if the writers intentions were well meaning, you can see how some might misinterpret this.

I haven't read any articles on how bikes are helping the japanese, but please post them as i'd love to read, and i can completely belive it with the lack of feul, and debris in the roads, etc. that bikes would really come into their own!

But I'm not sure if the post quite got that across
Keith

Esmo said...

This blog chronicles bicycle culture and its developments.

There has been an effect on Japanese bicycle culture as a result of the disaster.

This blog chronicles that.

Richie said...

as a long-time fan of this site, I have to say the timing of this post was poorly chosen. With maybe 10,000 people dead and possible nuclear disaster, it's not the right time to use the events promote bicycle riding

bikefish said...

I've been following the news from Japan compulsively (right now I'm late for work) trying to imagine the horror of living life after such a catastrophe. As I read about shortages of power and long lines for gas, I started wondering, "Where are the bicycles?" Every once in awhile I'd catch a glimpse of one in the photos. So in between reading about every step of the unfolding catastrophe, I'd check in at Copenhagenize, expecting Mikael to post something about bicycles in Japan. That's what a bike blog is for.

Anonymous said...

How can showcasing the resilience of people in the middle of a mind-numbing tragedy possibly be in bad taste? The people shown riding bikes are managing to do what they need to do with the tools they have. One of those tools happens to be a bicycle.

I, for one, am glad this is being documented.

Iyen said...

Bad taste? My ass.

I find this blog post a refreshing exploitative, fact-free sensationalism that almost every news outlet is peddling.

Even if you hate bicycles, you have to admit they come in very useful in situations like these, and I'm glad Mikael has documented that.

Iyen said...

Oops, I meant to say:

"I find this blog post a refreshing break from the exploitative, fact-free sensationalism that almost every news outlet is peddling."

Brad in Bergen said...

This is not in bad taste: it consists of two sentences of text and four photographs. It's a bicycle-related blog so reporting on a bicycle boom in Japan; the only thing exceptional is how restrained this post is. Anonymous #2 and Kevin Cannon: please point out where this post "boasts" about anything or expresses any sort of POV whatsoever.

Kevin Love said...

If this is in bad taste, then the people who are actually living in Japan and dealing with the crisis must be suffering an epidemic of bad taste.

See, for example:

http://www.tokyobybike.com/

Where he writes about how people where he lives in Tokyo dealt with the shutdown of the regional rail system by turning to bicycles. And how local bike shops sold out their stock.

katie said...

i don't think this is bad taste. the use of bicycles is absolutely crucial to these people at this time. being able to get around on a bike will be critically important to many people.

Froggie said...

I'm not sure if I'd have included the first sentence. I'd have just left it as "Here are some photos featuring bicycles in the ravaged tsunami zone."

That said, I bought my current bicycle 14 years ago when I was stationed in Japan, and I felt much safer bicycling the roads and sidewalks there than I did when I came back stateside (i.e. "back to the US" for those of you in Europe).

amoeba said...

I don't understand why 'Anonymous' thinks this post is in bad taste.

Yes, we are aware there's been an appalling tragedy in Japan, and all reasonable people would wish anyone well, who's been swept-up in this disaster. But there's little doubt that bicycles have a significant part to play when there's little food, reasonable distances to cover and isufficient fuel for vehicles.

As for the rather idiotic comment about outrunning the tsunami, I suspect that even in a car it would have been very difficult unless a number of special circumstances applied. Perhaps 'Anonymous' should take his opinions somewhere else.

bikefish said...

maybe it's insensitive to be looking at a bicycle blog at all at a time like this - shouldn't we all be following the serious disaster news and pitching in to help?

Rob said...

It's not bad taste. It's the reality for tens of thousands of people that have to find food and water, today.

Throw in a regional fuel shortage and it's hard to ignore the fact that, right now, bicycles will have to do for a lot of people.

I'm not sure what the day-to-day concerns look like in Sendai right now, but odds are for the people that evacuated safely, it's a good way to get to/from the affected areas but still have access to water/food/electricity.

ok-nonni said...

The God Machine!

Mikael said...

I responded to the ridiculous claims of "bad taste" here: Bicycle Freedom

Kiwehtin said...

The only way I can imagine someone could see talking about bicycles and the Japanese earthquake as "bad taste" is if they already have a negative opinion of bicycles. See them as not quite proper, as something deserving to be seen as controversial.

To the commenter who asked rhetorically (and disparagingly) how many people could outrun the tsunami on bicycles: you are pretending that Mikael is advocating that only bicycles should be used for transportation and that they should replace cars for all purposes. That is not what he says; in fact I remember him remarking a couple of years ago that "cars are not going anywhere soon" or something very similar. He *does* insist that cars should not take *all* the space and pushes for cyclists to be treated as equals for their mode of transport with their own facilities just like fast, dangerous automobiles have roads designed specifically for their needs and slow, casual pedestrians have sidewalks and paths designed for theirs.

And to answer your question equally rhetorically: have you paid attention to the relative speed of motorists trying to escape the tsunami on the road network in the many videos now online? A road network that criss-crossed the countryside in all directions but directly away from the sea? Compared with the speed of the tsunami bearing down on them at an angle, I am certain none of those poor people had a chance. So much for the superiority of the automobile.

Unseelie said...

A bicycle BOOM? Are you fucking kidding me?
People in desperate straights are not making a FUCKING CHOICE to go green or pedal to happyness, you insensitive mother-fucking asshole!

You know, you REALLY fucked up with this entry.

I'm fucking DISGUSTED.

Have you not seen the sobbing, heartbroken people on the news who have lost entire fucking FAMILIES?

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, you fucking CHEERLEADER of idiocy!

Unseelie said...

You know what, FUCK YOU and GOODBYE; I'm not reading your fucking blog another minute, another entry, another day; next you'll be posting bullshit about how awesome your graphite frame can be for radiation shielding or some shit.

I simply can NOT believe the cheerful HORSESHIT you're making of a tragedy.

roving_looney said...

bicycles are HEROs

Anonymous said...

Hey Amoeba, Let's see you pack up your family and get to high ground in 15 minutes on bikes. Cars are good bikes are good and walking is good.

bicycle rider said...

Hey Anonymous, take a look at this video.

amoeba said...

Anonymous said...
'Hey Amoeba, Let's see you pack up your family and get to high ground in 15 minutes on bikes. Cars are good bikes are good and walking is good.'

Very un-clever.

Bikes are almost always much faster than walking. The same cannot be said of cars and bicycles. It's easy to see that there are cases where bicycles would succeed where cars could not and vice versa.
A simple example would have been where people in their cars blocked the roads while trying to leave all at the same time. In much the same way as happens world-wide in probably every city, on virtually every day where cars are commonplace. In such a case, the bicycle would easily outpace many cars, sometimes hundreds of cars. Any-time I ride during rush-hour, I pass many car drivers who are slowly going mad.

Cars are useful, but overall they are bad for the environment and society, when all the factors are considered.

Adrienne Johnson said...

One of my first thoughts on seeing the devastation was that those who had access to bicycles were the ones who would be able to weather this the best. They will be the only people who can get anywhere in many places. It is telling that the 2 things to sell out first immediately following the earthquake were walking shoes and.... bicycles.

I think these pictures speak to the unbreakable spirit of the people who are actually faced with this crisis. They continue to survive any way they can.

"Taste" is subjective. Survival, not so much. I hope there are enough bicycles in these areas for everyone, because there isn't enough gas and those roads are no good for cars.

behoovingmoving said...

A few weeks ago I would have been advocating dense cities on flat coastal land, with circuitous streets to thwart cars (I'm an architectural educator, writing a book about architecture for cycling, so think a lot about things of this nature). My first thought upon seeing these pictures, was to give people expressways to drive to the hills. My latest thought, is these towns could be rebuilt with buildings like this one:
http://www.archdaily.com/83307/8-house-big/
Anyone could retreat up the wide spiraling access ramp to safety. It would just need an earthquake proof structure. Come over to my blog if you see cause to spray me with vitriol. This particular thread might need a rest.
http://behoovingmoving.livejournal.com/73444.html
Mikael, I thought it was a relatively neutral blog entry. It's not as though you took peoples low moments and spliced them into a pop clip.

Ashley said...

An important and unique collections of photos and words at this distressing time. It's totally appropriate to celebrate the bicycle as a symbol of human resilience in the face of disasters like these.