Something to watch: The Gaman Spirit – Why Cycling works in Tokyo

By pinning our hopes on Dutch-standard infrastructure, we may have been getting a little ahead of ourselves. Despite having next to no infrastructure, cycling in Tokyo enjoys a 14% modal share. There are lessons for us in Cardiff to learn here.

The city is very small, just like Cardiff. Taxi’s and buses make cyclists feel nervous in Tokyo, just like Cardiff. However, there are a few key differences that are well within our reach, at least until the infrastructure catches up:

  • Good public transport
  • Expensive parking & car ownership
  • Compact neighbourhoods
  • The right attitude & empathy for other cyclists

The Cardiff Context…

With the Metro on the way; the rising cost of parking in the centre of Cardiff and some interesting proposals around the new housing developments, that really just leaves us with the attitude thing…

OK, perhaps that’s no small hurdle, but there is a lot we can do to help change that. Making the effort to remind pedestrians and motorists that we are actually human beings, perhaps by smiling, waving people through at junctions, obeying traffic signals or being clear about our intentions, would be helpful to all of us.

That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Right now there’s a lot to be optimistic about. We’re growing in number –there’s definitely a lot more of us riding around and there is definitely appetite for more investment.

Sure, the infrastructure we do have is pretty poor, but if Tokyo can show us anything it is that infrastructure isn’t necessary for cycling to grow. Nurturing Cardiff’s growing bike culture and focussing on the battles we can win may get us most of the way there. A good cycle network may just be the icing on the cake.

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