Fixing Japan’s problem on abandoned bicycles

The subway and train lines are one of the most efficient and effective ways of travelling across the different areas, towns, cities, and prefectures in Japan. However, one of the major concerns with regard to any subway and rail system is the limitation on the number of stations or ‘stops’ which would therefore require long walks to get to one’s particular intended destination. To address this concern, the government of Japan regulates the use of bicycles around the local streets with designated parking spaces at subway or train stations.


This solution, however, brings its own set of challenges for the Japanese government which mainly include providing adequate parking spaces for the cycling locals and how to handle those bicycles which have been forgotten or abandoned by their owners.


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In Tokyo alone, the abandoned bicycle problem reached its peak in 1990 where some 540,000 parking spaces were constrained to accommodate around 700,000 daily commuters who used their bicycles to get to the different subway or train stations. Between the years 1990 to 2000, an annual average of around 200,000 bicycles was found to be abandoned at the different stations in Japan. The government of Japan had to expend billions of funds for the creation of additional bicycle parking spaces and for dealing with bicycles which have been cast aside by their owners.


“Bicycles abandoned outside stations represent a significant cost. Workers need to be permanently stationed in the area to marshal cyclists, for instance. While commuters are increasingly using paid parking, cyclists out for a night on the town tend not to follow parking etiquette,” states a representative of the urban infrastructure management division which is tasked to handle bicycles which have been left stranded with no means of identifying their respective owners.


Despite the monumental costs to resolve the abandoned bicycle dilemma, recent developments show a vast improvement to Japan’s circumstances as far as Tokyo is concerned which include a striking increase in the number of parking spaces that now totals to about 925,000. A survey conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government likewise reveals that only around 27,000 bicycles were abandoned in the year 2018 which is a far cry from the 243,000 abandoned bicycles recorded almost 30 years ago.


Reference: Tackling Tokyo’s Abandoned Bike Problem


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