Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bicycle Citizenship Manifest?

Last week, I came across about 3 different online petitions/pledges in the space of about two days.

The Google Trike (Photo: Google)

First was the Google Maps 'bike there' Feature Request which is pretty self explanatory, but in case you're not too familiar with Google Maps, it has a feature called 'Get Directions' in which you can enter your starting point and destination and the choose among 'By car', 'By public transit' or 'Walking' and then Google Maps will draw a line to show you the way you can take. The petition asks Google to map out bike lanes and enable users to find safe routes by bike to get to where they need to go. I think this would definitely be a welcome feature for a lot of us whose main transportation is the bicycle. I think this will take some time to realize, but I suspect Google is already working on it as they have been recording the streetview shots with their special Google Trike. It was apparently in Portland recently to ride the bike paths here. So, I think that will be happening sometime in the near future. I signed the petition anyway, as I thought a little encouragement couldn't hurt. The petition really says some good things. Take a look and sign it if you agree.

The second one was the
Cyclists Against Reckless Drivers Petition
. This was also a petition which seeks to make the world safer for cyclists. I totally agree with it, but I have not signed it as I'm not sure if I have the necessary status to do so. I am a permanent resident, but not a US citizen and since this petition seeks to change law in a specific region, I don't know if this is something I can sign and be accounted for.

The third one which I came across while reading Tokyo's Cycle Square Concierge Blog was the "Bicycle Citizenship Manifest" (in my rough translation). It's written in Japanese, so I will translate it into English below. I must say that even though this 'manifest' was written with good intentions, I can't say that I agree with everything it says. It seems to be written with a different mentality than that of my own.

Please note that this is a very very rough translation by me and not an official translation by the author of the manifest. I am bilingual in English and Japanese, but I am not a trained translator.

Bicycle Citizenship Manifest

We envision a society in which the bicycle, which helps to improve our health and the environment and will become an important means of transportation in the 21st century, to become a beloved means to enjoy our lives. To make this into reality, we seek "citizenship" of the bicycle by following the manifest and heretofore act as a group to demand for improvement in bicycle infrastructure.

1. We will ride as part of traffic and will adhere to left side traffic. (traffic is on the left side in Japan)
2. We will always yield to pedestrians and ride in the street along with automobiles.
3. We will follow traffic rules, stop at signals and always stop at the stop sign and check for safety.
4. We will wear helmets, use lights at night time and will enroll in insurance in case of accidents.
5. We will supervise our bikes correctly and will never abandon them.
6. We will demand safety in our bikes and maintain them properly.
7. We demand car drivers to recognize us as legitimate part of traffic.
8. We seek roads to be maintained for us to be able to ride safe and pleasantly and removal of illegally parked cars which undermine our safety.
9. We seek convenient and theft proof bicycle parking and facilities for showering and changing clothes.
10. We will work had for "citizenship" of the bicycle.

Where to begin... I think it does say many good things, but I think for the most part, this is purely for the very dedicated and hardcore cyclists and not something for the majority of people who may not be cycling enthusiasts, but uses the bike to get around. I think of myself as being far more of a bicycle enthusiast than most, but still I can't say that I agree with everything in this manifest. I am not sure what will become of this, but I think this may be just a part of a bigger plan to use this as leverage for improved infrastructure.

I'm all for better bike infrastructure. I think that's all that Japan really needs actually. There's no need a set of strict rules just to ride the bike. For most people, it's just another way to get around. In Japan, it seems like there's a huge gap between the hardcore cyclists and folks riding around on mamachari. It's almost as if these elite cyclists don't even recognize the mamachari riders as fellow bicyclists. There's a huge gap in mentality as well, but I think if the infrastructure is improved and it becomes safer and easier to ride, the mamachari riders will begin to travel much further than their immediate locality.

I really wonder if this is the way to go about it. It's kind of like a statement by honor roll students, but it's not really realistic if we are seeking a better environment for everyone to ride bikes in.


  1. More and more, my approach to bicycle advocacy was best stated by Gandhi: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

  2. Yes, definitely! So far I'm puzzled by the mindset of the cycling community in Japan, but after I move there, I will ride and act as I feel like and see if I can make a difference.

  3. Oooh, you’re such an inspiration. I love this blog!
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