The bicycle, like the umbrella, is one of those tools that man has created but, with the passage of time, has ceased to set much value on. These tools are useful when you need them, but when they are not in use, people have trouble deciding how to store them. Maybe it’s only in Japan, but some people, without a second thought, abandon their bicycles on public roads or ride off on one they know belongs to someone else - a clearly criminal act. The bicycle has become so mud a part of our everyday life that it ends up being treated as society’ s common property. But the treatment of things that have ceased being private property leads to far more disorder than one might imagine.
Until now, bicycles, when stored, have been treated matter-of-factly - hung from ceilings or piled atop one another. Recently, however, people have begun to reconsider the bicycle as a civilized machine that can be used as a pollution-free means of urban commuting. In any case, the bicycle has been well utilized and has now become a part of our daily lives. Pedaling it along at high speed has come to seem quite “natural.” The rider has to work at it to be able to take advantage of all its features, but as he matures, the bicycle enables him to stretch his riding abilities. This is what makes the bicycle such a wonderful tool.
People have to vie with one another just to get to the nearest station in this country. And given the road conditions in Japan’s metropolises, the bicycle is clearly the most reliable and quickest means to reach one’s destination. However, once at the station there is neither space nor temper for graciously welcoming the bicycle. The scene in front of the station, with the sidewalks overflowing with bicycle car-cases, is like that of some graveyard for tools that have lost their usefulness. One would never have thought there could be so much trouble finding a place to keep such a simple machine as the bicycle. Like the umbrella stand found at the entrance of a public or commercial facility, bicycle parks are a must at the gateways, such as train stations, in a town. Bicycle parks are like incubators for bicycles. A good bicycle park is a place where the sight of bicycles waiting for their owners to return can be truly comforting - a place of repose for bicycles that have made their way quietly through the streets without polluting the air.
Car parks have evolved into multi-storied structures that take their place as important elements in the urban landscape. The same is now happening with bicycle parks. The theme of the bicycle park just completed in front of Kichijoji Station in Tokyo is its transparency, which softens its feeling of three-dimensional solidness. It expresses through its component pans and shape a comfortable tension and a pleasant sense of equilibrium - something similar to what we feel from the rationality of the bicycle’s unique structure. Layer after layer of giant wings forming the roof make this bicycle park look as if it were about to take off. The sight may be suggestive of the last scene of the movie ET in which a procession of bicycles indeed soars into the evening sky.
Text by Hiroshi Innami 1994/10