Tokyo by Bike After the Big Quake

Tokyo bike scene. (Ray Hosler photo)

Reports filtering out of Japan have mentioned how people bought bikes to get home after the March 11 9.0 earthquake that shut down Tokyo’s public transportation system and closed roads.

Many shops sold out their entire inventory, including high-end models costing more than $3,700.

The average commute distance for commuters heading into Tokyo is 26 kilometers (15 miles), 68 minutes. Considering the dire situation last Friday, it must have seemed like a good idea to buy a bike and pedal home.

My commute is now 22 minutes (5.2 miles), but for the past four years had been 30 minutes (6.3 miles) by bike. On a good day I could drive the 30-minute bike route in only 12 minutes.

Loma Prieta Earthquake
In the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake I was working at Tandem Computers in Cupertino, but lived in Menlo Park. As usual, I was bike commuting that day, so I rode home after the quake, which struck just before I was getting ready to ride, around 5 p.m.

It took me a few more minutes to get there via Homestead Road and Foothill Expressway because the street lights were out, but traffic was orderly as police directed motorists.

I have visited Japan. While I did have my bike, I didn’t unpack it. Staying in Tokyo, I had no interest dealing with heavy traffic and pedestrians. Getting lost in this big city was another real possibility.

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