Oct 7, 2014
On Yer Bike! Community Cycle Schemes in Japan
As of October 2014, the good governors of Tokyo's Chiyoda-ku and Minato-ku kicked-off their Community Cycle schemes. Operated by communications giant, NTT Docomo, Community Cycle offers everyone from weary workers through to giddy tourists, a collection of (for the time being) shiny new electrically assisted bicycles to rent. These two-wheelers can be found at specific 'docking stations' dotted around the respective cities. They're available 24 hours a day and can be returned to any docking station in the designated area.
Prospective cyclists must first register online, here. Registration requires a cell phone and credit card. English instruction is available as are maps and locations of docking stations.
After registering, users can choose from two basic plans …
1 Time Membership: Use over a 24 hour period, no registration fee, 108 yen (tax inc.) every 30 minutes.
Monthly Membership: Use over 24 hour periods, 1,080 yen (tax inc.) registration fee, first 30 minutes free, 108 yen (inc. tax) every 30 minutes thereafter.
Chiyoda-ku also offers a 1 Day Pass (aimed at tourists). The pass can only be bought at the Sky Bus Ticket Counter (Marunouchi Mitsubishi Bldg. near Tokyo Station) for 1,080 yen (inc. tax). Use is until midnight the same day.
Members have two options when renting the bicycles; using a one time pass-code, or by scanning a preregistered IC card such as PASMO or Suica. Instructions available on the previous link.
If there are no spaces left when one returns a bicycle, fear not, just park it up as close as possible, lock the bike, and as if by magic, the docking station will register its presence. E-mails are sent to users to confirm the return has been completed!
There are rules, you know!
It's not unusual in Japan to see the casual urban cyclist riding their two-wheeled steed on the sidewalk, umbrella in one hand, cell phone in the other and a cigarette, well, somewhere else. There are, however, rules. Most of them can be filed under 'common sense', but given their flagrant disregard by many, it's worthwhile knowing some of the basics and being on your guard when the authorities are present.
The following are forbidden ...
It's very rare to see cyclists using the road, but that's where they should be unless a signs states otherwise, they're under 13 years old, or circumstances make it unavoidable to use the sidewalk (road works etc.).
Cycling side by side (yes, you read that correctly) or having someone ride tandem on the back.
Using the wrong side of the road (which means the right side of the road). Wow, this is confusing. Stay on the left!
Cycling under the influence of alcohol.
Cycling whilst using cell phones, umbrellas, and headphones.
Cycling after dark without a headlamp.
Regulations talk about penalties ranging from fines to, in some cases, prison terms. The reality, however, seems somewhat more relaxed.
Now, on yer bike!