Monday, January 16, 2006


There were angry scenes at Bakabatake Station in Kurume this week, as the long awaited cycle parking facility caused mayhem with commuter cyclists. Having spent close to 3 billion yen of local taxpayers money on the 3 year expansion, rail executives were pinning their hopes on the project, but if they expected a smooth transition they have been sorely disappointed. In chaotic scenes over the past few days there have been neverending queues, piles of unfinished paperwork and scores of parking officials running on the spot and pointing.

Whilst all of the Japanese commuters we spoke to refused to comment on what was happening, a number of local ELT teachers were more than happy to vent their spleens. Gracie Leanberry, originally from England, complained that "the queues are entirely unnecessary - instead of simply cycling in and parking you have to get off your bike and push it around one of those roped off mini-maze things, and then have your credentials checked by a parking attendant who fills out a form. After that, you have to stand on an incredibly slow moving conveyor belt, which takes about five minutes to travel up 20 steps. Once at the top, you have to present your credentials to another parking official and wait whilst he fills in another form, and then you have to park in the space that is designated to you."

Lynn Kiwi, a colleague of Leanberry from Canada, said that she made the mistake of not parking in the designated space. "The parking area was almost empty," she complained, "so I decided to park close to the entrance, at which point a red light started flashing and a parking attendant appeared carrying a torch and a clipboard. He told me that I had commited a grave error and would have to go to my designated space, which was at the very back of the complex and would have taken me at least 5 minutes to get there. I refused and started to lock up my bike but two more attendants appeared, each holding the ends of a small plastic fence and they tried to shut it around me. Fortunately I escaped."

Despite the silence of the Japanese commuters, these experiences can only be the norm. What Leanberry and Kiwi didn't mention was that once your bike is parked and the paperwork completed, you are required to walk on concourse that circumnavigates the train station in a gentle spiral, taking tens of minutes to traverse and meaning that commuters need to arrive at least 2 hours before their train is due to arrive instead of the usual hour.

Rail executives are obviously hoping that the conformity of their Japanese customers will keep things running, but although the holes are plugged and the ship is upright, it's not watertight by any means.


Post a Comment

<< Home