今年に、初めて自分の自転車を撤去されました。下北沢駅の近くに９０分だけ置いたのですが、自転車の「刑務所」に行かなければなりませんでした。警官も電話情報も誤った情報をくれたので、困りました。Bear Pond の喫茶店の親切のオーナおかげで、助かりました。手続きはとても頭が痛い。なぜちょっとした過ちがきつい罰になってしまうのでしょう。
Have you ever had your bike confiscated in Tokyo? After living here for more than three years, it finally happened to me a few days into the new year.
Lulled by the tranquility of new year in Tokyo, when many people are still with family in the countryside, and fooled by the laniards clearly demarking bike parking, Edoble’s Jess and I left our bikes near the Shimokitazawa station while we had lunch.
Nintely minutes later, the bikes were 5 stations aways. We received poor information from the local police office. The four officers kept insisting we’d need our bike registration numbers, which of course we didn’t need nor have. The phone number I reached also seemed to say that was the case.
We were saved from further misery and punishment by the affable owner of Bear Pond coffee shop. He phoned the information number for us, and let us know what to expect in terms of bringing our ID and paying the fine.
It was easy to find the bikes, after walking fifteen minutes from the station. The bike prison guys were reasonably helpful but the map they hand out only shows Setagaya! Jess’ intuition and iPhone map provided us a short-cut back to Nakano.
Biking in Shimokitazawa, I was struck by this old storefront partly covered in plants. There’s an impressive accumulation of pots, stands, and small trees. In a city of constant demolition and rebuilding, it’s nice to see this relic of the post-war period: clean architectural lines with aging wood and metal fixtures. It seems like the shop closed long ago, but the resident maintains the garden right up against the street.
Recently I have been spending more time on this Shimokitazawa shoutengai, or commercial strip full of very small businesses. This one is northwest of the station, and somewhat hard to find. What’s great is its combination of shops run by old timers alongside imported hipster clothes, one of Tokyo’s best coffee shops called Bear Pond that roasts their own beans, a hookah bar, and at least ten hair salons.
There are thousands of these shopping streets in Tokyo, near transit stations and along routes that connect homes, workplaces, schools, and leisure areas. It’s strange that Tokyo Metropolitan Government is still so focused on cars and their movement across the city at the expense of walking and biking and other forms of common space usage. There is little government recognition or support for the idea that these relics of past decades are in fact some of Tokyo’s most forward-looking urban public spaces.
Lively pedestrian zones are common in Europe, and becoming more so in many cities in the United States. By not segregating cars, pedestrians, and bicycles, the street pace slows down to pedestrian speed while still allowing passage for delivery trucks and cars. The way the street is painted makes it appear even more narrow, providing further social cues about speed and usage.
Many of Tokyo’s shoutengai are suffering as consumers shift towards shopping at big box stores and driving as a primary form of transportation. The city government is truly looking backwards when it promotes automobile usage and fails to recognize the value of these vernacular public spaces that support human interaction and the environment.