Woman on bike in Tokyo.A new bike commuter? Maybe.Photo: Byron KiddIn the aftermath of Friday’s earthquake, which disrupted public transit, residents of Tokyo are turning to bicycles to make the trip to and from work.

That’s the word from Byron Kidd, who blogs at Tokyo by Bike. I had seen him tweeting after the quake about an increase in bicyclists and a lot of activity at bike stores, so I got in touch with him to ask him to tell me more. (He’s also been tweeting pictures of riders he’s seen, like the one here. Click on it to see more.)

Here’s what he wrote to me in an email:

On Friday (the day of the quake) Japanese tweeters began suggesting buying a bicycle as a means of returning home for those stuck in Tokyo. All trains without exception were shut down leaving tens if not hundreds of thousands of commuters stranded in the city. While the majority of people living within 3 or 4 hours walk from their workplace chose to walk home, a large number of people descended on bicycle stores around the city.

As a regular bicycle commuter and bicycle blogger I took particular interest in this turn of events and made an effort to study the bicycle stores on my route home. Without exception the were all packed with customers. A friend also reported that he witnessed an empty bicycle store in Harajuku. The store carried bicycles of all prices up to $3600 and they were all sold out on Friday evening before 10pm.

Over the weekend life went on as usual, but come Monday public transport was unreliable and quite a number of people chose to cycle to work. … I think that quite a few people that walked home on Friday suddenly realized that home really isn’t that far from work and it dawned on them that they could cycle it a lot faster than they had walked it on Friday evening. After taking my daughter to kindergarten this morning I cycled around some major routes into Tokyo and witnessed a much larger than usual number of cyclists heading towards the city. As an everyday bicycle commuter I know the average number of cyclists commuting with me, and that number was greatly exceeded today.

By late afternoon it dawned on me that hundreds if not thousands of novice bicycle commuters had headed to the city and that few of them would have considered the logistics of getting home in the dark, which would be even darker with blackouts and everyone conserving energy by turning off unnecessary lighting. Knowing this I went out during the return rush hour with some tools, pump, and patch kits to do what I could to assist these new bicycle commuters on their trip home. I assisted in fixing a single puncture, tightening a few bolts and screws here and here, and helping a businessman with a chain that had come off his bike, in addition to giving directions. 

I expect to see many new bicycle commuters on the road tomorrow also and will carry some tools and patch kits in case I stumble upon [anyone] in need of assistance.

Safe travels to Byron and all the new riders on the streets of Tokyo. We’re thinking of you.