Arakawa River, Tokyo 荒川土手


The Arakawa River runs in the northern part of Tokyo. It used to flood every time a storm hit Tokyo; its name means Raging River. All of the rivers in Japan have been objects to tame not something to integrate into the urban landscape. People cannot find a place for them in their image of city living. The Thames in London and the Seine in Paris have been linked to people’s daily life and contributed to the urban structure and cultural development.

A chain of golf courses and ball parks are dotted along the edge of the Arakawa River, I understand that sports fans go every weekend to enjoy it. Today we were surprised that there were many people enjoying the space particularly bike riders; zipping past on the upper bank with drop handles, in spandex outfits and special bike shoes, semi pro… Where did they come from? This is not a location that you can come to by foot from the center of the city and quite a good distance by bike. Once you get on this green belt you can go for miles and miles comfortably without any disturbance but to get to it you need to brace yourself to go through unkind traffic with the thousands of intersections and traffic signals along the way. There are no bike paths in Tokyo, how then to connect to this space?

荒川は東京の中を流れる川ではあるけれど、北の端を掠めるだけで、治水が解決した今や、川沿いに住まないかぎり、毎日の生活に関わってはこない。ロンドンのテムズややパリのセーヌように川が市井の生活にを豊かにしてきたのとはだいぶ違う。荒川では、ゴルフ場と運動場で河川敷が いっぱいで、スポーツファンが日曜試合に来るか、せいぜい近所の人々が気晴らしに堤防に上がるだけだと思っていた。ところが驚いたことに、今日は自転 車を楽しんでいる人でいっぱいじゃないか。かなりの割合でドロップハンドルにスパンデックスでまたがり、ベタルに固定する専用靴に身を固めた セミプロ仕様の人々。彼らはどこから来たのだろうか?チンタラ歩道の上を走ってこなかったのは確かだ。ここは町の中心から、気ままに歩いてこられる距離ではな いけれど、自転車で来るのに最適な距離のところにある。そして、土手に着けば、川に沿って延々と気持ち良く走れる。しかし、そのためには、おびただしい数 の信号と車に煩わされつつ、大量の排気ガスを吸って来ないといけなかったはず。ロンドンやパリ、ニューヨークのような自転車道はここにはないから、ここに くるには長い不快な道のりを乗り越えてくるしかない。

Evey map of Tokyo shows the huge area of the river and if you added up all of the urban green spaces, the parks and temple grounds the area of the river banks would be larger, but people’s image of Tokyo does not include a river. It is isolated and segregated from urban life. But if we had bike lanes to get here? Even spontaneous riders looking for a leisurely ride will come not only the semi-pros. Cars cannot park here, by foot it is not easy, by bus or train is ridiculous but by bike it is perfect. You can link your daily life to the view of the wide open sky, water and nature. Tokyo is a city which needs dedicated bike lanes, a route connecting its green spaces. It would drastically change Tokyo life.

地図を広げればす ぐに解るように、東京中の公園や神社を足し合わせてもずっと巨大な空間がそこに横たわっている。それなのに、私達が心に描く東京の都 市イメージには荒川は入ってこない。川は都市から孤立して、都市生活に組み込まれていない。しかしもし、自転車レーンがあったらどうだろう?スパンデックスのセミプロだけでなく、東京中から人 がママチャリに乗ってここに集まってくるに違いない。車は駐車できないし、徒歩でも大変、電車やバスで来るのはあほらしい。でも自転車ならちょうどい い。そうすれば、大きな空、水辺、自然が日常の生活に繋げられる。東京こそ、自転車レーン、専用道がふさわしい町ではないか?そうすれば町が変わるだろと 思う。



My Life In His Hands 生殺与奪の権

It does not look like an urgent situation, but these police cars are proudly parking in the bike lane on 8th Ave. This is why bikers  are pushed into the car lanes and several are killed every year. This image tells us the reality of biking in New York but actually it has nothing to do with today’s post, because it is  impossible to take a picture of the situation I am going to describe.  The other day I was almost hit by a car going full speed passing about 12 inches from me. My heart was about to stop. We were both going the same direction and after the next stop light the same car did the same thing again. When I caught up to him stopping at the next red light, I knocked on his door.



He was thinking I was going to yell at him. His language was very protective and he took up a fighting pose, constantly bringing up aggressive counter theories. After all he said “ Do you want to argue about who is right and who is wrong? you want me to apologize to you, right? I can do that for you.” There was someone beside him who looked like his girlfriend and maybe he wanted to prove that he could be a gentleman.  “No, no, I am just asking you  to slow down or wait until there is enough space between us the next time”. In fact, I will never have the chance to meet him again so  I was asking for a favor that would never be required. I am sure he was thinking “Why did this bike guy stop me? The only reason is he wants to blame me and put me down.” I guess that idea came from his world view, or living in New York too long.

Drivers think that they have  total control of their car and would never hit a bike, they are so confident about it when they pass. But pedestrians and bikers do not see it  that way. Can you blindly trust him or her? You cannot see what the driver is like. Your life is 100%  in his or her hands. We do not know the airline pilots of our flights but we can trust them, but we cannot trust an anonymous driver approaching you from behind. They do not understand that even though they feel totally safe it  is far different from what we feel is safe.

The traffic light turned green and he began to go. At the last moment as he was closing his window I heard “OK the next time”. Maybe he did understood what I meant and after all he is a nice guy!!

運転している彼は僕に報復されていると受け取っているのか、酷く防御的で、攻撃的な反論を持ち上げてくる。あげくに、「 どっちが正しくて、どっちが悪いかを決めたいのだろう?謝ってほしいなら、そうしてやってもいいぜ 」 と言う。紳士ぶりたいのだろうか、助手席 にはガールフレンドらしきが座っている。「 いやいや、そうではないんだ、通り過ぎるときはスピードを落とすか、十分間隔が取れるまで待ってくれないか、 たのんでいるだけなんだ。今度からはそうしてくれない?」 考えてみれば、彼に再び会うことは二度とないだろうから、このお願いが将来、僕個人の利益に帰って来ることはない。それならなんで 無駄な抗議をするんだ?この自転車男がそんなことをする意図は一つ、俺を屈服させ、謝らせることだ。――― これが彼の人生観から来る前提だったに違いない。


信号が青になったので、彼は窓を閉めかけ、動き出した。その時!窓の隙間から 「今度は 」、と言う声が聞こえてきた。あれれ、わかってくれたのかな?!ナイスガイだったんだ !!