Quarantine and the Growth of Cycling

That’s right, I said “growth” of cycling. Japan recently declared a State of Emergency in a few select cities, including Tokyo and surrounding areas (Saitama; Kanagawa; Chiba), Osaka, Hyogo, and Fukuoka. After finally agreeing to postpone the Olympics, Japan’s prefectural and central governments were then free to begin acknowledging and addressing the rapid spread of Covid-19 throughout the country. If you reference officially-published statistics, the situation in Japan looks far more mind than that in places like the US or Europe.

For starters, Japan lacks the legal authority to impose the kind of harsh restrictions on movement seen in places like Italy and Spain. They can encourage certain “non-essential” businesses to close, but such closures are entirely voluntary and many businesses are still open during either regular or shortened hours.

Looking around many of the stations and parks around town, many people don’t appear to be taking virus threat seriously. I went cycling over the weekend and many of the city parks, bike paths and hiking trails as crowded or ever. I was being at least moderately responsible by “social distancing” myself (I was riding alone), but most others I observed acting normally, perhaps a few more masks than one might typically see during the hay fever months, but overall just more crowded. Commuter trains continue to be full of passengers, particularly during commuting hours.

This phenomenon seems to be global in scope. The UK’s Guardian reports that many cities are expanding walking and cycling paths while there are so many fewer cars on the road. Just as in Japan, parks and paths the world over seem to be hitting capacity constraints.

That said, for the selfish cyclist not legally confined to one’s dwelling this could be a great chance to get out on routes that are otherwise inaccessible or miserable due to vehicle traffic. Here at Sporra might even build some temporary route challenges around this phenomenon, but want to be mindful of being responsible during this pandemic. We’ll be watching to see how this plays out in Japan. In the meantime follow your local guidelines, stay healthy, and if this means you can safely go and explore new cycling routes then seize the day.