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Things to know about bicycle-sharing services in Japan | A guide to living in Tokyo

Living in Tokyo
Category : Living in Tokyo

Why not use a shared bicycle to get around Tokyo? The bicycle-sharing service is widely prevailed across the Tokyo area, convenient for anyone who needs a bike for a little ride. The shared bicycles are available to rent for 24 hours a day, allowing you to return the bike to any bicycle station at your convenience. Unlike using your own bike, you don’t have to be in trouble while looking for a bicycle parking lot, which you barely find in central Tokyo. You may think that the subway is the most convenient in Tokyo. Still, bicycles can be more suitable depending on the destination. Some subway stations have been like a maze underground where you need to walk through the passages. In the meanwhile, you may have already arrived there by bicycle.

Bike station

What is bicycle sharing?

Bicycle sharing is a rental service on a membership basis, allowing the members to rent a bicycle to get around from a bicycle station (called Cycle-port サイクルポート). The shared bicycles are available at any stations dotted in the cities where the members can rent and return bicycles at their convenience.

To use shared bicycles, you need to sign up and open an account on the service company’s app that operates the bicycle station you like to use. The registration requires a mobile phone to install the app and credit card. If you have a smart card (IC card. e.g., Suica, PASMO) or mobile wallet (おサイフケータイ), you can use it as a key to open/lock the bicycle, which is convenient for frequent users.

Bicycle-sharing services in Tokyo

The Tokyo area has two major bicycle-sharing service companies, docomo bike share and HELLO CYCLING; both collaborate with other service providers, including local governments and administrative districts. Bicycle stations in the middle districts of Tokyo, such as Chiyoda, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, are operated mainly by docomo bike share. HELLO CYCLING mora likely operates stations in the suburban districts, for example, Setagaya and Suginami ward. Keeping this tendency in mind will help you decide which operator to use according to the location.

Fee settings

The fee setting varies depending on the service company or the location. The rate is usually set on a short time basis, for example, 70 JP Yen per 15 minutes or 165 Yen per 30 minutes. The fee generally includes damage insurance general insurance.

Additionally, package services are available for monthly use and one-day use. The monthly use or Getsugaku Kaiin 月額会員 is a package for frequent users such as commuters, allowing them to rent a bike as many times if each ride is within 30 minutes. The one-day package will be good for tourists traveling around Tokyo by bicycle.

Payment system

The payment is made by credit card. The service companies may accept other payments such as “docomo-payment” or “au-payment” that you can check out when you sign up. Note that you cannot use IC cards for settlement. The IC card you register on your account is used only as a key to lock and unlock bicycles. (As of March 2022)

Bicycle station

How to use bicycle-sharing service

On the premise that registration and fee settings are different from each service company, here you find how to rent a shared bicycle.

How it works

For first-time use

Search for a bicycle station
You can search a nearby station on the internet, with a key phrase like “bike share locations near me 近くのシェアサイクル.”

Membership registration
Install the operator’s app on your phone, then open an account. (Must be free to install)
You are required credit card information to sign up.

In the case of docomo bike share, you will be asked to select a location to use at the beginning of registration.
If you register your IC card (e.g., Suica, PASUMO) or mobile wallet (おサイフケータイ) on your account, you can use them as a key*.
*To use as a key, it requires a setting on the bicycle’s control panel, which you need only once for the first time to use.

Start using

Check the availability and make a reservation
Open the app to see the availability on the map and book a bicycle at the nearby station.

The availability changes from time to time. It should be better to book a bike at this stage. If you book a bicycle, you receive a reservation number on the app. The number is to unlock the bicycle.

Go to the station and rent the bicycle
Find the bicycle you booked. Each bike has a number plate that you can see when booking. Press the start button and enter your reservation number (PIN) on the bicycle. Then it unlocks automatically.

Bike's control panel

Bike’s control panel

Some bicycles require scanning a QR code instead of entering numbers.

If you have registered your IC card, scan the card on the control panel to unlock the bike. It requires an IC card setting on the bike once for the first time of use.

Check the bike’s condition before starting to use it!
The chances are that the bike has problems. It can be dangerous if the brakes are loose. If the bike has a broken saddle, you cannot adjust it. You will feel uncomfortable riding a bike with creaking noises from the chain. Another problem is that the bicycle may have a battery left only 10% despite the app showing it plenty charged. Be sure and check the bike before you start using it. If you find a problem, cancel your reservation and rent another bicycle.

What if you find problems after starting to use the bicycle?
Return the bicycle immediately. It will not charge a fee if you return within a bit of time as;
docomo bike share: free within 5 minutes
HELLO CYCLING: free within 3 minutes

Use the shared bicycle
Temporary parking
If you need to park your bicycle temporally while renting, you can simply park and lock by hand. However, remember that it costs you even during the temporary parking. To unlock and start riding the bike again, open the app to check the PIN of the bicycle, then enter the number on the control panel.

Lock on the bike

Push down the lock to close

Returning the bicycle to a station

Open the app to find a returnable nearby station on the map, and go to the station. At the station, park and lock the bicycle by hand, then turn on the control panel (if it is off) to press the button “Return (返却)” or “ENTER” for completion of returning it.

Parking stations downtown may soon get fully occupied with returned bicycles. It is advisable to book in advance for a returning station if you have decided when and where to return the bicycle.

In the case that the station is fully occupied, the bike displays a message “Full. Not returnable 満車 返却不可”. Be sure to complete the returning process successfully before you leave the bicycle.

For more details, see the operator’s official websites, which come with easy-to-understand information in English.

The bicycle-sharing services are now readily available in Tokyo while its popularity rises. However, bicycle accidents are also on the rise these days. Be safe and make the best use of shared bikes for convenience.

Information | Bicycle-sharing service companies

docomo bike share (English)


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