As noted in last Thursday's blog, Kyoto does not have proper bike lanes that are completely separated from either pedestrian or automobile traffic.
However, the city does have a handful of lanes that are pleasant enough and functional.
Here are the three Best Bike Lanes in Kyoto in 2013.
3. Bronze Medal - Takeda Kaido in Deep Deep South Kyoto
In far deep south Kyoto is this short, attractive bicycle lane. Pictured above right, it is south of Jujo (10th street) - Kawaramachi, goes under a highway ramp, and is just a bit west of the Kamo River. We're not sure who would use it - or why it was necessary (there is almost no pedestrian or bicycle traffic on the wide sidewalk) - but is a step in the right direction. It is separated from pedestrian traffic by a low row of bushes - plants! - and on from the street by a low curb. Both the landscaping and signage are tatstefully done.
2. Silver Medal - Kujo Dori
It was a toss up between Kujo Dori (9th Street) and the Bronze medalist noted above. The reason we give Kujo the silver medal is that this lane is used since it is in a densely populated area.
The lane runs along Kujo in the heart of south Kyoto, from Takeda to Kawaramachi, which is not far from Toji Temple.
It has to be one of the first, if not the first, bike lanes in Kyoto. The signs are cheesy and evocative of a 1970s era city planner's idea of chic.
The paving is uneven, and the lane is not long - but you ride in a mostly separated lane while pedestrians generally keep to their part of the sidewalk.
Not bad at all.
Drum roll, please. It is time for the 2013 CycleKyoto.com award for the Best Bicycle Lane in Kyoto. And the winner is, for the second year in a row:
1. Gold Medal - Gojo Dori
On the sidewalks of one the city's major boulevards is a decent bike lane. Pictured below right, the Gojo Bike Lane runs on both sides of the street (north and south) from the Kamo River until Horikawa. The Gojo bicycle lanes opened in March of 2011.
It has clear, well-spaced signage and the pavement also indicates whether you are in the bike lane or pedestrian area. In places, though, the lane is broken up by pedestrian overpasses - bridges to the other side of the street - and in other places there are long gaps in the quasi-barrier, so pedestrians do wander into the bike lane.
Special Mention - Karasuma Dori between Marutmachi and Shijo (and ultimately Kyoto Station)
Kyoto recently created a new bike "lane" along a stretch of Karasuma Street. It runs on both sides of the street from Marutamachi, at the corner of the Imperial Palace, down to Shijo Street.
In addition, according to a city handout, the lane will ultimately stretch south from there to Gojo, Shichijo, all the way to Kyoto Station at Shiokoji Street Lanes are on both sides of the street. Each is an umber colored space painted onto the road, unfenced, and 2.5 meters wide.
We remain hopeful.