Situated at the eastern gateway to the Japanese capital, Edogawa City is, despite its location in the heart of Tokyo, a beautiful scenic community of rivers and trees. Preserving that attractive townscape in the midst of the changes brought about by urban modernization has been a major challenge.
Edogawa was originally a city of rural scenery nestled in lush natural surroundings. From the 1960s, however, infrastructure development increasingly lagged behind the growth in population triggered by rapid urbanization, and much of the city’s natural environment was lost. Rice paddies were filled in, rivers became contaminated, development proceeded pell-mell around train stations, and most of the town’s scenic beauty was destroyed without a thought. Deeply concerned about what was happening, the local government and residents took community-wide action to improve their surroundings by organizing campaigns to clean up the environment, plant trees, and so forth. Edogawa was the first place in Japan to implement a shinsui (“enjoy the waterside”) parks program, which involves restoring polluted rivers to pristine condition by cleaning their waters, rather than simply filling them in. It has thus slowly but surely restored the attractive cityscape it once enjoyed in the past.
But these successes were undercut by the gradual proliferation of bicycles chaotically parked around train stations, which became a serious blight on the beauty of the cityscape. At the time Japan’s railway network was rapidly expanding, and it became common for people to commute to work and school by bicycling to the nearest station and then taking the train to their destination. As a result of increased bicycle use, the areas around train stations became cluttered with large numbers of randomly parked bicycles, which detracted from the local scenery. The resulting deterioration in the townscape even had a considerable negative impact on the business of nearby stores. Bicycles jutting out into the roadway ended up paralyzing urban functions by impeding the passage of emergency vehicles. Haphazardly parked bicycles were even one factor in the decline of overall community safety in that they were a temptation to bicycle theft. At its peak the number of improperly parked bicycles around Edogawa’s ten stations totaled 9,000, creating numerous challenges for the community and prompting growing calls by local residents for a solution.
Edogawa City attempted to solve the problem by building large numbers of bicycle parking facilities, but parking facilities located at a distance from the station proved inconvenient, and people ended up leaving their bikes right outside the station just as before. While often viewed as a nuisance on the roads, bicycles are in fact an eco-friendly means of transport that anyone can use. With the looming threat of global warming, their use should if anything be encouraged.
With that in mind Edogawa City devised the Comprehensive Bicycle Program — a system designed not simply to banish bicycles from the roads, but rather to encourage widespread bicycle ridership while eliminating improper parking of bicycles in the interests of a more attractive urban landscape.