A trial scheme to provide unsupervised bicycle rental around the Marunouchi district in Chiyoda-ku was launched today. The Community Cycle project which runs until Nov. 30 is a collaboration between Japan’s Environment Ministry and JTB travel agency and is aimed at getting more cars off the roads.
We got a glimpse of the very funky-looking tabi chari (travel bikes) this weekend when we were pottering around the area. While looking very hip, our one criticism is that the wheels seemed rather small; as the area covered by the scheme itself is rather minuscule, perhaps they were hoping that people would get tired out before they pedaled away with the merchandise.
The project cleverly makes use of IC cards, which are already a popular means on payment for transport around Tokyo. Credit is put onto cards such as Suica or PASMO at machines found in train stations and payment is made by touching the card to a device that deducts payment for your train journey or bike rental as the case may be. The initial initial registration costs ¥1,000, and rentals within 30 minutes are free.
Similar community bicycle projects have been very successful in Europe; Japan’s low crime rate almost guarantees success, so we’re looking forward to seeing more of these bike stands around the city in the future.