The Sanjo Arcade is a nearly kilometer-long covered shopping arcade in the center of Kyoto, Japan. Lined with shops and restaurants, locals stroll or ride their bikes to and fro through the colonnade throughout the day.

The Sanjo Arcade. Photo by the author.

The arcade is a “shotengai,” or shopping street in Japanese, that stretches 850 meters from Horikawa Street to Senbon Street on the west side of central Kyoto, Google Maps shows.

The entrance to the Sanjo Arcade on Horikawa Street. Photo by Google Maps.

Another view of the Sanjo Arcade. Photo by the author.

While we do not have any direct parallels to the Sanjo Arcade in our region, there are similar streets elsewhere, like the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, the 16th Street Mall in Denver, and the Ithaca Commons in Ithaca, New York. However, neither has the sheer density of people or shops — not to mention the roof — as in Kyoto.

The lower density of many US cities is a good reason why dedicated pedestrian and bike malls are not more common here. Some cities have even had success reintroducing cars to former pedestrian and bike malls, like in Buffalo, where cars recently returned to three blocks of its Main Street pedestrian mall.

This is not to say we shoudln’t look to Kyoto and elsewhere for bike infrastructure ideas. The city is teeming with cyclists, with dedicated on-street or on-sidewalk lanes lining many major thoroughfares and the city’s narrow side streets popular ways for cyclists to cut through its large blocks.

Edward Russell is an air transport reporter by day with a passion for all things transportation. He is a resident of Eckington and tweets frequently about planes, trains and bikes.