BY PHILIP J CUNNINGHAM
One of the wonderful things about Kyoto is how well the environment has been preserved, thanks in part to savvy citizens, ample public transportation and the popularity of bicycle use. On the other hand, what at first glance might seem a pristine environment is quickly being eroded by the boom of automotive culture.
Riding my bike past the historic site where the Kyoto Protocol was signed I always find it surprising to see how many motorists chose this otherwise pristine symbolic setting to idle away. Cars, taxis, trucks alike park with engines on, whiling away the hours on a tree-lined roadside, in violation not only of parking laws but also violating Kyoto's mild and generally ineffective ordinances against idling.
Similar scenes of drivers with their vehicles left running, idling noisily away while napping, smoking, watching DVDs or just killing time can be seen everywhere in Kyoto, winter, spring, summer and fall.
But it is especially odd to note that some of the most scenic, quiet spots with the cleanest air, such as the street in front of Kyoto's International Conference Hall, where the famous anti-global warming protocol was signed, attract droves of needlessly polluting vehicles like a magnet.
More disconcertingly, since after all, the Kyoto International Conference Hall and accompanying hotel, despite the symbolic significance, are primarily designed for out-of-town VIP visitors, is the way idling drivers lurk in front of local children's playgrounds and public parks, historic streets and temple grounds that are part and parcel of daily life in this proud ancient capital city.
The accompanying amateur video was filmed on location on an IPhone, mostly from the vantage point of a bicycle in motion. For more photos and related articles, see my blog, Frontier International.