Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cycling Around Hakata Station

I had thirty minutes to kill before boarding a bullet train, enough time for a bicycle-themed walk.

I was outside Hakata Station, the busiest train station on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands. I tried to walk predictably so as not to confuse cyclists who shared the sidewalk with pedestrians.

About 17% of weekday trips in Japan are by bicycle. These are short trips around town. Most bikes are simple, heavy, one-speed mamachari (Mommy chariots).
There is no clear logic to the paths taken by pedestrians and cyclists. Pedestrians walk both on the left and right, cyclists weave between pedestrians.

Symbols on the sidewalk provide an illusion of order.
But these symbols are not quite what they seem.
The yellow tiles do not segregate lanes. This is tactile paving to assist people who are blind or visually impaired. Linear bumps indicate the alignment of the sidewalk. Dotted bumps communicate the need to stop at an intersection or near the edge of a station platform.
No-Cycling symbols are frequently ignored. The rider in the photo at the top of this post shows the general attitude to cycling law.   
The blue arrow does not define the direction of travel. It points towards a bicycle parking lot.
As I walked around the perimeter of the station, I kept finding parking for bicycles. Cyclists first pay at a machine before using these spots:
Space is at a premium. Bicycles can be stacked on these racks:
It was not unusual to see a bike parked, unattached.
Under a plaza on the west side of the station I found a huge bike parking lot.
Cyclists entered by elevator, or by walking down gradual steps.
A motorized belt on the right hand side of the steps makes it easy to take bikes back up to street level.

Back at the train station I walked past a western group, waiting, trapped by their huge roller suitcases, all dressed up, nowhere to go. It's easy to explore with a light, 35-liter backpack when there's time to kill.

Note: I was killing time March 23, 2016. Next day I cycled across the Seto Inland Sea and occasionally ignored Japanese cycling laws.

1 comment:

  1. Another fabulous, but more difficult, walk: take the train to Hannover and on to Goslar. Go from there to Torflaus in the Harz National Park; the Harz tourist board can assist with luggage, accommodation etc as the area is sparsely populated. Walk down the border patrol path of the old "Iron Curtain" via Ilsenberg and Brocken. The flora and fauna are wonderful, and it's thought that there are no landmines. The German section of the trail ends at the Czech border, but you can walk on as far as the Black Sea, if you're feeling nimble!