Chiyoda Ward wants you to ride your bicycle
Though bike riders get credit for not polluting the environment, they don’t get a lot of respect. The law says you should ride in the road, but drivers and even local police often force cyclists up on the sidewalks where they invariably terrorize pedestrians. Even worse, when you get to your destination you may end up spending as much time as a motorist finding a legal place to park your vehicle.
According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, 869,000 illegally parked or abandoned bicycles were “removed” in 2007. Of these about 510,000 were eventually reclaimed by owners with the rest being “processed,” which we assume means they were either destroyed or shipped off to North Korea, where, according to certain right-wing conspiracy theorists, they enjoy a second life as weapons parts.
Removing and processing bicycles obviously costs money, and since 60 percent of those seized are reclaimed, it seems equally obvious that local governments should make more of an effort to provide free parking to non-commuters who just want to visit a particular neighborhood for shopping or whatever. Chiyoda Ward seems to be doing that. In the past year or so the ward has set up 18 parking stations in popular areas where bicycle parking is free for up to two hours and then costs only ¥100 thereafter up to 24 hours. Akihabara has two.
The understandable trade-off is that the ward seems to be cracking down even harder on parking scofflaws. Chiyoda, famous for its cigarette patrols which not only ticket street smokers but extract fines from them right there on the spot, says it will be more agressive about clearing out illegally parked bikes. If it happens to you, go to the nearest police box and ask where the confiscated bikes are kept. It will cost you ¥4,000 to get it back, which is actually something of a bargain. A cursory survey of other ward rules shows many charge at least ¥5,000, and since many don’t have a system of free parking like Chiyoda’s (we found one in Adachi Ward that provides 90 minutes for free, and then charges ¥100 for up to only four hours), Chiyoda comes off as being twice as enlightened—and much nicer in general. But you can check each ward’s Web sites to find out its own bike parking situation.