In the autumn of 2016, Lotte Bech, member of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark and architect from Urban Cycle Planning, visited the Japanese cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Kanazawa and Tokyo. Lotte Bech visited schools and kinder gardens to do workshops on cycling games. The trip had an aim of inspiring the Japanese communities to focus more on children cycling. However, Lotte got inspired too.
The organization Friends of the Earth (FoE) in Kanazawa and the University of Osaka participated in the Velocity conference in Taipei in the spring of 2016. At the conference, they noticed the different aspects of Danish bicycle games and education on bicycle safety as presented by Lotte Bech, and got inspired. In spite of hectic traffic in many Japanese cities, there are no initiatives in Japan focusing on preparing children cyclists to becoming part of the Japanese cityscape.
At Velocity Lotte was approached by a Japanese delegation and invited to do workshops on the bicycle games as preformed at Velocity. Upon arrival in Japan, Lotte experienced a mutual cultural interest from both Lotte herself and from the Japanese officials. Both Japanese children and teachers were keen on learning about the practicalities and history of Danish cycling. Lotte also felt overwhelmed by the interest in the games and theory presented and it quickly became apparent, that there was both a need and a demand for bicycle education for children in Japanese cities.
According to FoE the main objective of Lotte Bechs visit, was to learn from Danish experiences on bicycle education and education in road safety and traffic behavior. In turn, the objective was to implement Danish experiences and knowledge in teaching in Japanese kindergartens and schools. The overall vision of FoE is to create a peaceful and sustainable world based on societies living in harmony with nature – in this vision cycling can play a central role.
In time, the Danish bicycle community can bring many years of experience, success, and failure as well as ideas and knowledge to the Japanese bicycle scene. Some of the initiatives count; bicycle games, including cycling in school curriculum and general education on road and bicycle safety.
In Japan, a new generation might take urban cycling to a completely new level by creating a viable, greener, and healthier alternative to existing primary modes of transport. Lotte Bech has definitely shown that Danish bicycle culture can inspire – even far away from home.