The Netherlands has one. Denmark had the first. Britain has had one since 2010. Cycling Embassies, that is. And now there’s one in Tokyo, the Cycling Embassy of Japan. This has been founded by Byron Kidd of the tokyobybike blog – and he is the embassy’s first ambassador. The new embassy will “unite many small and diverse cycling groups around the nation encouraging them to work together and support each other so that their combined voices and opinions will be heard at a national level.” The Cycling Embassy of Japan will also offer guided urban design and architecture tours, lectures, presentations, consulting and research.
The first “cycling embassy” was the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, founded in 2009. This is a network organisation jointly organised by a number of Danish cities as well as the Danish Cyclists' Federation and a number of bicycle companies and architects. The Dutch Cycling Embassy was founded in 2011 and is a public private network, and receives support from the Dutch government ministries of Infrastructure & Environment and Foreign Affairs. The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain was founded in 2010 and is a volunteer organisation run by bike bloggers.
The Cycling Embassy of Japan aims to “import best practices in regards to cycling and cycling infrastructure to Japan, and to promote Japan's vibrant cycling culture to the world.”
Kidd told BikeBiz: “We formed the embassy to fix what we see is an imbalance as Japan has huge numbers of everyday utilitarian cyclists, yet absolutely no support from planners or the government.
“With the Olympics approaching there is talk of improving cycling lanes, but people I’ve spoken too in the Tokyo Metropolitan government aren’t considering any more than a token strip of paint around Olympic venues .. areas which ironically have the lowest cyclist numbers in the city.”
Kidd is an Australian software developer and has been living in Japan sine 1996. He rides a “mamachari” (“mum’s bike”, or Japanese shopping bike).
Other members of the embassy include website designer Chad Feyen, Yasuyuki Saito, a reporter for the Asahi Newspaper, Japanese blogger Youhei Hayakawa, and James Szypula, operator of Yokohama Rides and Rentals.
On the Copenhagenize Index of Bicycle Friendly Cities Tokyo was ranked 10th. Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize ranks Japan as the third greatest cycling nation behind the Netherlands and Denmark.
“Tokyo is a relatively safe place to cycle, even without cycling lanes,” said Kidd. “Everybody cycles. Everybody, the young, the elderly, women, children, businessmen, housewives, delivery people, the postman, everyone.”