Thailand’s Tiger Temple tragedy shows how tourism can be horribly wrong right on the heels of the Harambe silverback gorilla incident at the Cincinnati Zoo. Joe and Laura discuss these issues among other travel news before turning to perceived danger versus realistic safety in summer travel.
Laura‘s fresh off a trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico and Joe’s off to Honduras next week. But first, Laura and Joe look back on the string of terrorist attacks in Brussels, Ankara, Istanbul and Pakistan, and discuss how these tragedies may dissuade people from traveling, but also, how statistics show it’s very unlikely you’ll be a victim of a terrorist incident. On a happier note, Laura shares thoughts on a recent Cleveland staycation.
The Gaman Spirit: Why cycling works in Tokyo started with a simple email to Streetfilms‘ Director of Video Production, Clarence Eckerson Jr.
“I’m going to be in Japan for a couple of weeks. Need anything from Tokyo?” was the gist.
Turns out they did need something from Tokyo because it’s a city that actively discourages driving and they have a 14 percent mode share of bicyclists. That means 14 percent of all trips in Tokyo are done by bike, every single day. To put that in perspective, New York City hovers around one percent.
Yet Tokyo does not have the cycling infrastructure of an Amsterdam or even Hamburg, which is something most western minds believe to be a necessity for encouraging cycling. Not that wider cycling lanes wouldn’t help boost the 14 percent mode share, but Japanese folks in Tokyo have shown they will cycle regardless. If there’s no bike lane, they’ll just hop on the sidewalk or wherever they feel safe.
Still, it was easy to see some of the same problems persist in Tokyo that I’ve seen in my own cycling from Cleveland to throughout the United States. That is, motorists will take that space back when it so pleases them.
For instance, while cycling on a beautiful blue lane into downtown Tokyo, my hosts and I stopped at an intersection to get some shots of cyclists passing by. Across the street, there was an unloading truck pulled over into the bike lane. Ahead of us, there was a car pulled over in the bike lane that forced cyclists to either hop onto the sidewalk or move further into the vehicle lane. Unsurprisingly, oncoming drivers did not seem keen to make space for the merging cyclists or to slow down.
The other peculiarity was the fact that the responsibility of designing cycling infrastructure falls onto the shoulders of the individual districts within Tokyo. Byron Kidd of Tokyo By Bike equated it with New York City boroughs coming up with their own cycling infrastructure, irrespective of one another. The result is, indeed, confusing — comically so at times.
However, cycling continues to work beautifully in Tokyo. I was surprised by just how young the kids were cycling around the city. I was told that kids start in the back of their parent’s bike, then they move up to a handlebars seat when the second child comes along before hopping onto their own bike when they’re too heavy. This all makes sense when you consider that it’s very common for Japanese children to be sent off on their own at an age many North Americans would consider too young.
Above all, everyone I spoke with agreed that there’s at least one thing the rest of the world can take from cycling in Tokyo. That is, the “Gaman Spirit.” Literally, it means “to endure.” But when applied to cycling in Tokyo, it refers to everybody getting along.
Whether you’re a cyclist, pedestrian or the rare driver, it doesn’t matter. We all have a job to get done, so as Kidd put it, “get it done.”
Laura Watilo Blake of Far-Flung Travels co-hosts this episode of Without A Path to talk tech in travel. Joe also asks Laura about what she’s doing to prepare for travel in Cuba, and Laura asks Joe about his recent travels to Japan and a snowy Alaska.
Japan brings to mind two very distinct images. There’s one of a hyper-modern society with concrete towers filling the skyline as far as the eye can see. Business men and women chirp away on their cellphones as they get off the train and over to their next meeting. Large screens flicker around every corner. In some cases, it looks as if Times Square was used as a model by a designer who thought it was too modest. It’s never quiet here. There’s always the sound of footsteps, trains, buses, cars, and chatter. Fresh air and greenery are hard to come by, but people are too busy to notice anyway. Continue Reading →
Ever wonder what it’s like to live through a military lockdown? Well, that’s precisely what happened to Anne Krapu while living in Beijing. Anne joins Joe to share what happened as well as some of her more fonder experiences traveling the globe.
Update from January 29, 2018: This post has been updated with a re-release of Anne’s appearance on Without A Path two years ago. Last week I received a message from Anne’s brother letting me know that she passed away unexpectedly. After hearing this news, I re-listened to our conversation and felt compelled to share it again. As her obituary says, Anne truly lived her life to the fullest and she clearly left her mark whether it was for the various political causes she championed or traveling the world and sharing her experiences with people like me.
If you’d like to learn more about Anne, and I suggest you do, you can read her obituary here. I’ll warn you in advance that it’s heartbreaking, but perhaps it’ll inspire you to be a better person — a person like Anne Krapu.
Few words can properly articulate my excitement when I was invited to visit Japan and tour the Okayama and Kagawa prefectures. Who doesn’t want to go to Japan? We all have a romanticized image of the Japanese countryside in our mind, clashing beautifully with modernization churning full speed ahead along the rails of their bullet trains.