This past April, a new facility was opened next to the Tsukuba Bus Center. As part of an overall plan to cope with the increased usage envisioned for the opening of the new train station in a few years, a parking garage for up to 870 bicycles and 90 motorbikes was opened, going mostly unnoticed by at least those who only occasionally park their bikes and take the bus. As those of us who have had warning stickers pasted on our bikes (or worse yet, who have had their bikes impounded for a 1000 yen fine) have found out, parking on the plaza next to the Bus Center is now illegal.
A recent trip to check out the situation revealed the following facts. There are only two signs with any English on it explaining the new rules. They are located in front of the new (rebuilt) pedestrian bridge across Chuo Dori and next to the bus unloading area of the station (neither of which are anywhere near where most bicycles have been parked in the past). According to the signs, the entire block, which includes Nova Hall, the Daiichi Hotel and the Bus Center, is now off limits for bicycle parking. One look around confirms the fact that many are ignoring the new rule (or in the case of those who can't read the visible "no parking" signs, don't even know about it!) and are leaving their bikes near the plaza entrance of the Bus Center anyway. But this could prove to be costly. As with the frequent parking of cars along the nearby roads (which are all no parking areas), one never knows when a traffic cop will be coming along to ticket (or impound) the vehicle.
The exact boundaries of the no parking area are not very clear, as there are no "no parking" signs in front of Nova Hall, for instance, even though that is included in the area colored red on the explanation board. That is, however, no parking, even for evening concerts. The entrance to the Information Center is likewise technically no parking, though I was assured by the staff there that this was intentionally overlooked for those going into the center for a short time.
Actually, there are three areas within the entire "no parking" block that are specifically designated for bicycle parking. There is a small section near the plaza entrance for the Daiichi Hotel that is chained off for bicycle parking. Technically, this is for Center Building customers only (and not for people going somewhere on a bus), and bikes are not to be left there overnight. The sign (again in Japanese only) says parking is allowed only between 7 am and 11 pm, with another sign telling you where you can pick up your impounded bike if they decide to round up such overnight bikes (which apparently isn't that often, as the sign said the last such roundup was in August.) There are also designated parking areas on the street level under the pedestrian bridge next to Nova Hall (which, unlike the new parking garage, is free and accessible any time), and in front of the Joyo and Kanto Banks.
Basically, it is only the elevated plaza area and the areas immediately next to the bus center where the ban is enforced. In these areas, there are several "churin kinshi" signs (in Japanese only), without even so much as an international "no parking" symbol included. In fact, the only such symbol connected with any of the signs is one done in error ?? a "one-way, do not enter" circle with a bar across it!
The bicycle parking garage is open every day except New Year's Day from 6 am to 10 pm. The parking fee is 100 yen per day for bicycles and 150 yen per day for motor scooters (50 cc). For those who commute daily by bus or would use their spot at least 15 times per month or more, there are monthly rates of 1500 yen available as well. Students get a discount at 1000 yen per month, and relatively cheaper rates are also available for longer term contracts of 3 or 6 months as well. Motor bike slots are available for 2000 yen (student 1500 yen) per month with corresponding discount rates for longer periods.
For those coming back on a late bus, the 10 pm closing time does present a problem. The gates are locked at 10, and so if your bike is inside, there is no way to get it out until the next morning. They do, however, have a small area at the entrance that is outside the gate and can be accessed at any time. Thus, if you know you will be coming back late, you can put your bike there (for the same fee) and get to it after 10 pm. If, for instance, you are planning on returning on a 8:30 pm bus from Tokyo, under normal circumstances, there would be no problem getting back before the 10 pm closing. But if there is a delay because of an accident, then you'll have a frustrating time indeed. You would also likely be required to pay an additional 100 yen parking fee the next day when you get your bike out on top of everything else.
One way to avoid both the uncertainties and expense of the parking garage and a steep fine for illegal parking is to park your bike elsewhere. The designated area under the bridge next to Nova Hall is a good bet, along with bicycle path on the other side of Chuo Dori (near the library) or next to Seibu as they don't involve much of a walk to the station. Arriving with enough time to spare and a bit of searching around should solve the problem. There is no guarantee your bike won't be stolen, however, so do play it smart and have a secure lock preferably linked with an immovable object.
The International Women's Network (IWN) is a group of women who enjoy chatting with people from all over the world. We hold a monthly potluck dinner where we exchange information about the local community while eating a variety of foods. No reservation is needed to attend the potluck. Just bring one dish of food and show up at the meeting. Newcomers are always welcome! Take advantage of this unique opportunity to enjoy the international city of Tsukuba with us!
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