One of my favorite pictures from our trip to Taiwan a few years ago was taken on the street while we waited for the light to change so we could cross. The cars stopped, as expected, in a neat row as the light turned red, but then the bicycles and motorbikes kept coming toward the front of the cars. Soon the intersection teemed with them, all jostling for position to be the first out of the gate when the light turned green. There were regular human-powered bicycles with one rider, there were scooters with any number of riders depending on who needed to sit or who could stand on the muffler in the back, and then there were the full-on motorcycles, which generally had no more than two passengers. There were even apparent mothers, toting one child in a seat on the front of the bike and another one the back of the bike, while carrying a basket full of groceries in front of the front child. Of course, her purse is slung across her shoulders. Well into the twenty-first century, Asia is still a two-wheeled continent in many areas.
I’m stereotyping a bit, of course, but even in modern Tokyo, it’s very common to see multiple riders on bikes and the streets and sidewalks congested with them. The ever-popular scooter is a common commuting method in a country where the infrastructure is built for public transport, and not for the complex and large system of roads that we expect in the United States.
So now we’re back to me, and my little corner of Tokyo. What does this have to
do with me? Well, it seems that my new job is located in an area that is a little bit awkward for commuting. It’s only one train-stop away, but it will take me 5 minutes to walk to my train station, five or eight minutes on the train, and then ten or twelve minutes to walk up a hill to the school where I will teach. If I walk, it takes thirty minutes. I think it’s time for me to buy a bicycle.
I have never been particularly good at biking; I have terrible balance, but I can do it. The weather in Tokyo is pretty good for bikes, too. It doesn’t rain too often and the extreme cold is rare and short-lived. The worst part of biking would be the heat, and I won’t be biking in the summer because I’m a teacher and won’t be in school.
The next thing to tackle however is the big hill to school, not to mention the big hill atop which my house sits. Tokyo is NOT flat. And so I believe I’m about to buy a power-assist bike to help with said hills. If I do it, the whole commute should take me under fifteen minutes. In my time-crunched world of home, children, teaching and writing, I think the time-savings will be well worth it.
I think it’s time for me to get closer to the Asians. Time to buy a bike. Stay tuned to see what transpires.