I was in Japan for three months working on projects in Copenhagen… but commuting everyday to work.
Copenhagen is famous for its bikes and bike-commuters, so it’s not surprising that I started cycling pretty much everywhere when I moved there. So when I moved to Tsukuba in Japan I wanted also to commute by bike. Unfortunately, although there are a lot of people cycling here, the cycling infrastructure in Tsukuba and the rest of Japan is relatively poor (in coparison to Denmark anyway, any bike infrastructure would be poor.. in Denmark improvements are related to three-bike wide cycle lanes, green waves, or even cycle pumps on the bike highways). So even though it is not allowed by Japanese law, cyclists use the pavement to be safe for the cars and most large roads have no space at all for brave cyclists that cycle along the traffic (some still do it!). When there is no pavement, some cyclists cycle on the other side of the road to face the traffic; this is clearly forbidden since April, but habits are slow to change!. This leads to a lot of confusion when you cycle on the right side of the road (which is actually the left side, since Japan drives British style)… But there are also pavements that are totally uncomfortable and dangerous for bikes; when tree roots destroyed the pavement and marble the ground, creating bumps every 50cm on the pavement. Therefore, finding the ideal cyling route was a bit of a game of trial and error!
As the crow flies, my commute should be about 5km. Following the roads, the route I took the first day was 7.1 km. The first day, acting like a local, I took to ride on the pavement.. but this was not only bumpy but also very unpleasant. As days of the week passed I changed the route and realised a couple of weeks after that, as I increasingly discovered my neighbourhood, my commute had really complexified. So I decided to map it, and even took my smartphone with me to map the route. This is the result. Most changes were due to lack of cycle lanes and poor pavements.