Meet the bicycle parking enforcers

Yesterday evening on the way home I caught Adachi-ku’s bicycle parking enforcers in action:









From Adachi-ku bicycle parking enforcers

The open area outside Ayase Station’s east exit is normally filled with illegally parked bikes (because it basically serves no other function). As in most areas, Adachi-ku bans bike parking near stations except in designated parking lots (there is one that’s free of charge on the south side and several fee-based ones). But in reality, most of the time the only thing stopping people from parking in this area are some old men in yellow vests (apparently officially sanctioned volunteers) who verbally warn people not to park there (even as 5 others are parking their bikes directly behind them).

But about once a week the enforcers come around, and it’s on these days that the park becomes oddly bike-free. On this Saturday in particular I was walking in an area that’s usually so flooded with bikes it’s impossible to walk through comfortably, but when the enforcers came around there were only two or three bikes to be found. Somehow everyone seems to know what day the enforcers will be there.

According to the Adachi-ku homepage, the district only enforces bicycle parking within a 300-meter radius of train stations, as those are the places where offenders concentrate.

If your bicycle is caught by the enforcer’s net outside Ayase Station, you must make your way to the Kita-Ayase relocation center (on foot, presumably). To retrieve a bike that’s been confiscated will cost you 2,000 yen and require you to produce proof that you own the bike along with a working key. Act fast, though – bikes in custody for two months will be “disposed with.” While I don’t know exactly what Adachi-ku does with the orphaned bikes, many abandoned bicycles nationwide end up exported to North Korea,  so if you don’t want to fund Kim Jong Il’s regime, you need to retrieve your bike as soon as possible!

MM20071025145737747L0

A Yomiuri photo of bicycles slated for export.

The Wikipedia article on this issue makes an interesting point – in most cases, there are more people who benefit from illegal bike parking than who are adversely affected by it. No one might be explicitly advocating that bikes should be permitted to park wherever they want, but the fact remains that the fee-based parking lots are expensive and often inconvenient. This means that politicians have a hard time taking decisive action as it would upset the population.

12 thoughts on “Meet the bicycle parking enforcers”

  1. When I first arrived in Japan, you could park your bike just about anywhere. Now, you can’t park anywhere in my neighborhood. There are “no parking” signs everywhere. You can’t even park in front of shops for more than 10 minutes without risking someone putting a warning sticker on it.

    I understand the need not to block pedestrian traffic with bikes, but I think the bike-hostile environment in Tokyo is pointless and discourages people from using one of the best and most environmentally friendly forms of transport. The same people who they employ to collect the bikes and deal with paid parking could just as easily monitor parking such that people don’t block walkways when parking. I don’t think it’d cost the local governments anymore money. I think that, in fact, the whole fee-based parking (in spaces that are far from the station or hard to get to in many areas) and the collection racket is simply profitable so they make it hard to park legally.

  2. Where I am there is a strange problem – you can’t walk near some shops because of the bikes, the walking areas of narrow side-streets get blocked, and yet the large free parking area behind the station is never full because it is about 7 minutes walk (boo hoo) from the major stores. From the pedestrian point of view, one sometimes ends up being frozen for minutes with bikes in the way if there are cars passing as well. I can only imagine what a nightmare it can be for elderly people with mobility problems, people in wheel chairs, and people with baby cars. I also notice that if they don’t take the bikes away, the situation starts to snowball as bikes in use will collect around a core of abandoned ones, creating an impassable bike island that often gets ridiculous on weekends. I’m in favor of more heavy-handed measures. Come to think of it, the public tone of Japan usually agrees with me but a lot of my public rudeness pet peeves concern bikes – people riding with umbrellas (or higasa – that always gets me steamed), texting, or smoking.

  3. This is why I try and chain my bicycle TO something in public areas, instead of just leaving it free-standing.

  4. “This is why I try and chain my bicycle TO something in public areas, instead of just leaving it free-standing.”

    I saw a bike chained to a 駐輪禁止 sign last week!

  5. “This is why I try and chain my bicycle TO something in public areas, instead of just leaving it free-standing.”

    are you sure they wouldn t confiscate it anyway? happened to me, albeit within a parking lot (where you had to pay. apparently they had the necessary devices to cut throug an Amsterdam-style chain lock). i was new to Japan and didn t know that police / law enforcers are more likely to take your bicycle than thieves.

  6. Where I am there is a strange problem – you can’t walk near some shops because of the bikes, the walking areas of narrow side-streets get blocked, and yet the large free parking area behind the station is never full because it is about 7 minutes walk (boo hoo) from the major stores.

    This is sort of the situation in Ayase, except that the free parking area is a disgusting shanty-like thing buried among back alleys which looks more appropriate for shooting heroin than for any legitimate activity. The public space photographed above could easily be repurposed as free bike parking, though, and it ought to be.

  7. While I think that the authorities should be ruthless in persecuting delinquent parking, I also think that they should provide large, well-lit, generally nice parking areas no more than 5-10 minutes walk away from major shopping areas / stations. The thing that pisses me off is that such a thing exists where I am, and yet the situation still sucks. I’ve travelled a lot in Japan as well and feel that “bikes in the way” is very much a nationwide thing.

    Adamu quotes a good point from wikipedia – that there are more people who benefit from illegal bike parking than not. I feel, however, that the benefit is limited compared to the potentially much greater inconvenience suffered by some. I mean, imagine having to push a wheel chair or stroller out into traffic (this might be more common in the inaka – more old people and more dekichatta yanki kids with kids). This topic was on my mind when I went out this afternoon. I saw no less than 3 phone booths totally blocked by bikes (not that anyone uses them, but….) as well as 2 benches (there are only about 3 in the whole area) and the kicker was someone standing at a pedestrian crossing smoking (banned) becasue the designated smoking area was blocked with bikes. People should really consider that 4-5 bikes and a scooter end up taking as much space as a kei car and 40-50 bikes ends up turning into an illegal parking lot in a hurry.

    I sympathize with Orchid’s point about the environment (I don’t drive so complain as a “pure” pedestrian) but I also have to wonder – if finding a parking space for a bike is a bit inconvenient and expensive, are people really going to go with cars instead? Aren’t they massively more expensive and inconvenient? What I’d like to see is more people stashing the bikes near stations and hoofing it a bit.

    Personal anecdote – I once got clipped in the head by the higasa of an old lady on a bike (drew blood). Why couldn’t I get out of the way? Illegally parked bikes!

  8. I gotta give my city its due. Lots of free bike parking near both the major shopping area and the station. I did get caught out once arriving back late from a day tip to Tokyo to find that the particular place I parked my bike was shut and locked at 10:00, but there is very little illegal parking – at least nothing to impede my walking around.

    You can’t repurpose those wide open spaces in front of stations etc as they are supposed to be there to look nice and practicality be damned. The sort of people that decide that probably don’t ride bikes to the station anyway.

    Trying to find parking for motorobikes can be hard: anything over a 50cc scooter is too big for bike parks, and it’s not really a car either.

  9. Jade, I think that your city is rare in that the station is really quite far away from the main shopping area – meaning that they double up and end up being adequate. Throw in provisions for like 3,000,000 tourists a year and you actually have a bike parking success story.

  10. My pet peeve is places where there is plenty of room for both peds and bikes, (例えば sendagaya or yoyogi), but some dingbat has set up ‘pay to park your bike here’ machines, and the mean grandpas mess with you if you park in any of the wide-open spaces near the paid-parking lots. Does anyone have any idea who runs those things? Do they need a liscence from the city? ARE they run by the city? It’s just so pointlessly petty and greedy, it gets my goat. . .

    Tokyo has some of the best, fastest, most efficient trains and stuff. . . but they make it that in order to use the trains you have to park your bike 8 minutes from the station, thus turning an efficient fast system into a slow cumbersome one . . .the mean grandpas are singlehandedly undoing the years of planning of everyone involved with the train/subway system. Thanks a lot, you sheds!

    Anyway thanks for doing a post about something so close to my heart.. . .

Comments are closed.