No Parking

No Parking

Ten tips to safely stash your ride


Originally published on on December 2009

The advantages of owning a bicycle in Tokyo go way beyond saving time. You can use a bike to expand the ground you can cover in your own neighborhood, or attach a basket to conveniently carry your groceries and baggage. You can take your trusty steed out with you for a late night out if you plan on missing the last train (BWI, Biking While Intoxicated, is not recommended), or ride in tandem with your significant other freewheeling on the rear-wheel frame. All the Japanese teenagers seem to be doing it these days. And of course, I haven’t even mentioned the eco-friendly benefits of cycling.

That being said, one thing that makes me absolutely ooze with anger is the increasing strictness of the local government towards bicycle parking. I’m talking about the Bike Nazis: the ojiisan who hang around stations issuing tickets for improperly parked bicycles and then carting them away. They even have their own symbol (think Ghostbusters but with a cartoon bike).

OK, I get the message: “Bicycles are bad!” In a society that encourages cycling—an activity that has numerous benefits for the individual as well as the public at large—seeing these old fogies haunting the streets and alleyways near major stations is painfully ironic.

Knowing full well that the chances of an influential seijika reading this article and taking my opinion into account are slim to none (tsk, silly gaijin), I’ll instead offer you, the bicycle pedestrian, a list of the ten best ways to avoid the so-called Bike Nazis.

1. If you’re parking in a busy area, look for a Peacock, Seiyu, or other major supermarket. They often have bicycle parking for their customers out in front or behind the building. But beware: these institutions usually hire their own private Bike Nazi, so make sure he or she doesn’t see you as you slip away.

2. Take your bike inside with you. This is acceptable for most apartment buildings and some office complexes. If you haul your ride inside, using the stairs is encouraged, and you should avoid tight elevators and shopping centers. Warning: this would be very uncool at your favorite live house or bar.

3. Take your bike with you on the train. Bike bags are a must; at the very least, stuff your frame and front wheel into an oversized garbage bag and hope no one asks any questions.

Illustration by Shane Busato

Illustration by Shane Busato

4. Stash your bike under a stairwell or in a tiny alley. Avoid the areas around train tracks.

5. Upgrade from your flimsy, easily broken wheel lock to an aircraft-grade steel cable. No one will ever be able to cut your precious wheels loose.

6. Park your bike anywhere you want at leisure and let your tickets add up. Does anyone actually check these things?

7. Enlist the locals to revolt against the Bike Nazis. Viva la revolución bicicleta!

8. Don’t buy a bike. Instead, when you need one, hop on the nearest unlocked mama-chari and pedal off to your destination. If it’s gone when you return, simply repeat the procedure again. This method would involve some “moral flexibility,” but then again, most of these units wouldn’t even go for ¥2,000 anyway.

9. Join the Japanese police force and get your hands on one of their all-white, single-speed mama-chari. No one will ever even think of giving you a ticket. Seriously though, in the land of the bullet train and Asimo robot, why is it that the Force has yet to update their bike shed? Anyone remember the TV show Pacific Blue?

10. Get a car. Actually, on second thought…