Touring Tokyo on Sharebike

ByMichael Stigall
Oct 31, 2022

Touring Tokyo on Sharebike

Bike sharing has been a thing in Tokyo for more than a decade now, but it still feels like a relatively new thing only known and used by the savviest of Tokyo residents. Starting in Yokohama, bike sharing is now all over the Kanto area, and they are quite a convenient way of getting around. One of my favorite Tokyo memories was a day that I took a share bike around most of Central Tokyo just touring. As, up to then, I had mainly traveled by rail, it was amazing to realize how close and interconnected most of Tokyo is when you are free to take the side streets and shortcuts that a train or car simply can’t. As the weather cools down, why not take a morning to get to know Tokyo on a bicycle? It really is a rewarding experience. But let’s get down to how to even get started.

What is bike sharing? 

Simply put, bike sharing is about being able to rent a bicycle for a short amount of time from a local dock and later drop it off at a dock near your destination. You do not need to return it to the original location, so it is especially nice for commuting or just getting around. Best of all, it solves that age-old problem of when your final destination is still a good distance from the station you get off at. Sure, you can take a cab or bus or walk to your final destination, but a bicycle is a viable option for many people. Best of all, you don’t need to worry about bicycle parking since that part is already set aside for you. 

How Does It Work?

Most of the services offered require pre-registration on an app or website. For our purposes, we will focus on the biggest service provider in Tokyo, which is Docomo Cycle. They operate the bike share program in most of the central wards of Tokyo. The website provides smartphone app links, instructions to use the service, and registration. You must have a credit card to register for the service and pay the usage fees. The cycles themselves have small computers that facilitate tracking and security functions. Since Docomo is one of Japan’s largest mobile network companies, demonstrating their technology at work. Once you are all signed up, log into the website, find the closest docking port, and choose the bike from the list. A passcode will show up to unlock the bike; enter this into the keypad over the rear wheel, and off you go! Returning is even easier; park the bike at a dock in the system, lock it and press the “Enter” key and you’re done. 

Final Thoughts

a bike share is an excellent option for commuting for those who can’t deal with the crowds on trains and buses. This is doubly true if you are in an area of town where train stations aren’t as dense. It’s also a great option when there is a train delay due to accidents. Finally, as I mentioned, riding around Tokyo like you own the place can be great fun. In fact, if you visit specific hotel front desks in the system (accessible in the app and on the website), you can purchase a discounted 1-day pass just for this purpose. There are hundreds of docking stations in the Metropolis, so there is probably one near you. So what are you waiting for? Next time you walk for kilometers to some far-flung location or think about how your commute could be better, consider a shared bicycle. 

Kentaro IEMOTO from Tokyo, Japan, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Michael Stigall editor

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