Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Clearing Bicycles Away in Omiya in 1991"

Revisiting 1991 again - the young people who are now middle-aged, the little kids who are now in their twenties. The trains that have been scrapped and replaced with newer ones. The women with long, straight, black hair (you very rarely see that any more). The vast number of bicycles parked around the stations....

Basically, everything is different, which shouldn't be a surprise, but change comes little by little, day by day, so you don't even realize how much things have changed (even though you think you do), unless you have visual & audio recordings to look back at your past with. There are so many details that go missing in the memory - so seeing everything again can be a bit of a surprise.

That preamble out of the way, I should explain the situation with the bicycles. Recognizing there was a serious problem of insufficient parking space for bicycles, multi-level bicycle parking garages were built all over the city, but they were still rare in 1991. In the middle of this video ("Trip to Omiya - 1991"):

- is an example of what cities did from time to time to clear roads and try to get people to park their bicycles in a way that didn't get in the way of everything. People would rush to the station to get to work on time, and park their bicycle anywhere they could - often double and triple parking along roads, to the point that cars and delivery truck drivers would have to get out of their vehicles and move bicycles before they could continue down a street. People would park so many bicycles around the entrances to a shop that you'd sometimes have to move one of them before you could even get into the shop!

And so the men clearing away illegally parked bicycles are not being real careful with them (slam! bash! - see the video). What happened to the bicycles being taken away? Many were probably given up on, and some (the better and/or more expensive ones) reclaimed. Once taken away like that there was a fine to reclaim one, and if the bicycle was rusted and old, people would often just buy a new one.

With many more bicycle parking areas created since then, this is not as serious of a problem as it used to be, but still there are parking problems here and there. Typically, certain shops will have parking for customers, and then people visiting shops without parking will leave their bicycles in whatever parking space they can find. The space fills up, and customers of the shop providing the space can't park their bicycles there, so the shop owners get angry and remove bicycles of people obviously not shopping there, etc.

I should put in some more details, but it's late and I need to get some sleep!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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