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No Parking

May 14th, 2007

This whole parking thing has gotten out of hand. They have really gone hog-wild. It’s not just in Shinjuku or in the high-traffic areas; I can’t even park my scooter on a normal street anymore without getting ticketed. Before, using a scooter was great; parking anywhere was not a problem. And I’m not talking about cluttering up a street, but parking in a place which still leaves a broad two meters or more of sidewalk open for traffic.

Case in point: I came to visit Sachi and parked in front of her apartment building. There is a space next to a pedestrian overpass, where there is a traffic “shadow,” an area where no one would walk or ride their bike even if it were clear (see photo below). A less offensive parking space is hard to imagine. But the ticketers came along and started writing out their citations… not because it was a nuisance, not because anyone complained, not because anything was being blocked… but simply because they could, because there’s a profit in it. If the bike were parked next to the building where it was blocking foot traffic, they’d have no complaint–I know, because I just asked them, and they told me to park it in a traffic spot because it was not a public traffic spot. So I did that, and now it’s parked next to some little stools on a pathway next to this building, where it could easily bget in the way of someone who wanted to rest there… but I won’t get a ticket for that.

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Note the sidewalk, how there is more than two meters open, and how the bikes are parked in the traffic shadow behind the fencing. The tickets won’t clear up the space, either–it’ll just fill up with ordinary bicycles. So what’s the point?

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And neither is this going to clear up the sidewalk, even in places where the sidewalk is narrow: they are only ticketing motorized bikes. Scooters and motorcycles. Not bicycles, even though they take up virtually the same amount of space, and are far more numerous. Apparently, you can’t hand out a citation for a bicycle that generates profit. So they get a free pass. At worst, a notice is left on the bike, and if it stays affixed for several weeks, then it gets carted away. My scooter got a notice and was almost ticketed within just a few hours.

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It’s not just me, either. I moved my bike with minutes to spare, but this guy didn’t. He just took the ticket off his bike’s handlebar, the one behind him to our right, and is now he’s futilely complaining to the ticketers about how he was just visiting a nearby building for a few hours, so what’s the deal? Note the bicycles here don’t even get a notice to warn them to move.

If you park a scooter even for one day, it gets ticketed, which means a steep fine and points get taken off your license. Which stays on your record for a full year, or longer if you get other violations before that year is up.

Nor is it a simple matter of finding the right spot. The building superintendent steadfastly refused to allow me to park in any of the many open spots around the building where no one goes. Buildings in Japan have zero accommodations for visitor parking. They have completely closed off all parking places for scooters, except for the pay-parking lots–and that can run $10 a day or more, for parking in a space barely larger than a bicycle takes.

In short, Tokyo has changed from a scooter-friendly place to a scooter-hostile zone. It would be slightly better if there were a reason for it other than sheer profit for the ticketing agencies. I’m just lucky that there’s a sliver of a space next to my workplace where I can park. Otherwise I’d have to park far away and pay for the privilege.

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  1. May 15th, 2007 at 17:39 | #1

    Bicycles that are parked illegally have it worse than people who get ticketed for parking scooters illegally. They get confiscated by bicycle police and hauled off to an impound lot. You not only have to pay 3000 yen to get it back but you also don’t have access to it for 2-4 weeks while they process it. The bikes may take up the spaces without ticketing but they do so at risk of worse happening to them.

    It has become increasingly difficult for us to park our bicycles anywhere for any length of time. There are bike cops everywhere who monitor whether or not you’re doing business at the buildings you park in front of and you even need to get validated at the local government office if you do business there. This situation has been the case for those of bicycles for quite some time now. I guess you’re lucky that you haven’t had to put up with this for as long as we have and the situation has only recently gotten bad for people who use scooters.

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