Kyoto does not have any bike lanes that are completely separated from either pedestrian or automobile traffic. It thus has degrees of separation, or degrees of less bad bike lanes.
In recognition of the city's half-hearted effort at laying down an infrastructure for cyclists - excluding, of course, the many parking lots for bicycles - well done, Kyoto! - CycleKyoto hereby hands out the first annual awards for Worst Three Bicycle Lanes in Kyoto.
We have not included any of the "lanes" painted onto sidewalks. The winning lanes are on the road.
3. Bronze Medal - Oike Dori on the south side of Nijo Castle
Going east towards downtown as you ride past Nijo Castle on your left, the left lane of Oike Dori in is a "bike lane." (A picture of the lane is on page 12 of this Kyoto City report on bike lanes.) We know this because on the street in large block white letters it is noted 自転車専用 (exclusively for bicycles). However, the lane has been colonized by cabbies, salarymen, delivery trucks, and others who park there, which forces cyclists back out into the remaining lane and traffic. Moreover, aside from the lettering, there is nothing - no construction, no signage, nothing - to indicate its putative purpose.
Useless and dangerous.
2. Silver Medal - on Shinmachi Dori in front of the Police Headquarters
This "lane" is brilliantly bad (see left). It is just one city block, or roughly 250 meters long. It goes to nowhere, and comes from nowhere. It is the Dante Tenth Circle of Hell Bike Lane: you can circle the two sides of the street, within the lanes, forever, getting nowhere, going nowhere, accomplishing nothing.
Moreover, a taxi lane is built into part of the lane on the west side, so that cops and bureaucrats at the prefectural government building next store can catch a ride home. Also, because of complaints about the coloring - it was too bright and blue - the lane was repainted a more subtle, a more "Kyoto," brownish purple. According to the Yomiuri, that cost the taxpayers 6.5 million yen ($78,500). In typical Kyoto fashion, the awful original paint job, and then the money involved to redo it, nearly caused a riot.
Drum roll, please. It is time for the 2012 CycleKyoto.com award for the worst bicycle lane in Kyoto. And the winner is:
1. Gold Medal - The "lanes" pictured at the top right and below right on Rokkaku Dori, Higashinotoin, etc., in the center of town north of Daimaru Department store. The lanes are barely as wide as normal handlebars. Outside the white line is the space prescribed for pedestrians; cyclists are allotted the space within the white and purple lines; and automobiles are squeezed into the middle space.
Absolutely hopeless. A complete and utter waste of time and money.
To give the city its due, we will look at the best three lanes in a future blog.