CARFREE TOKYO

- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bicycle trailer in Tokyo

We initially thought that a trailer would be too bulky for Tokyo, or that it would be too heavy to pull along behind a bicycle. This combination of electric small wheeled bicycle (National Panasonic model) plus high quality trailer (a Burley "Solo") has proven to be extremely versatile. The electric motor is powerful enough to assist my wife up any hill (and there are some serious hills in our area). The trailer is made for a single child, but we use it to carry both our children (now five and three). It also can be removed from the bicycle and wheeled around like a pram if the child/children are asleep. There is a cover for the trailer, so the children stay dry in any weather, and also space behind the children for about two large bags of shopping, which is also protected from the elements. Most bicycle trailers can also be folded quite easily when not in use, and the Burley Solo is no exception. It can be folded and chained to a post near the school allowing the bike to be used by itself until pick up time. Our school commute is about 3km which takes around 15 minutes at a very leisurely pace - a slow jogging pace of 5min per km. The longest trip I have taken the electric bicycle with trailer was about 6km, and the battery worked fine all the way with some power still left at the end of the day.

Electric bicycles abound in Japan, and very good ones at that, including some with regenerative braking. But it can be difficult to purchase a bicycle trailer in Japan as they are yet to really take off. We bought the Burley Solo from REI, the US outdoor store online. WIKE is another maker of quality bicycle trailers based in Canada. They sell direct and will also deliver to Japan and other countries.

Recently bicycles seem to be experiencing a revival of popularity in Japan, as in other countries. Bicycle trailers also are attracting a lot of interest. One of the country's largest delivery companies, Kuroneko Yamato has begun to use large bicycle trailers behind electric bicycles also. In fact, it was seeing their set-up that made me think that an electric bicycle might enable my wife to pull the trailer also. Up until I bought the electric bicycle, the trailer was just too heavy for her to pull behind a bicycle.

6 comments:

electric bikes said...

This is nice bike~

StompinRhino said...

Thanks for the comment. I saw your website. The bikes look quite interesting. I would interested to know what you sell them for. I have friends who left Tokyo for Brisbane and took their electric bikes with them. In fact we even helped them procure a spare battery from here because they were using the bike so much.

We upgraded to a full size electric for my wife recently, but the smaller bike was quite good, particularly for pulling the bicycle trailer. We could haul loads of things around with ease using that setup, and the smaller bike kept the whole package quite compact. Just one thing though - suspension does not work well with trailers. I am sure it is fine when riding without a trailer, but when you try to pull a trailer behind a suspension bike it bounces all over the place - or at least that has been our experience.

Anonymous said...

How do you hook a child trailer to an electric bike?

StompinRhino said...

Hi There - attaching the trailer to the bicycle is very simple. The exact mechanics of it are different depending on the make of trailer. The best is definitely the Chariot. The Burley is also very good. Anyhow, it is extremely simple, strong and safe so no problems there!!

gomichild said...

I've been looking into options for carrying my toddler around on a cycle - and I was wondering if you'd come across any weird attitudes or road rules regarding using this type of trailer attached to a bike?

StompinRhino said...

We used to pull this trailer (Burley Solo) every day to and from an English language kindergarten that was a few km away. The route took us along roads where the footpath was so narrow that you could only walk single file (despite enough space on the road for huge trucks to park and kill time). It also took us past two police booths. The only negative comment in many years was from a young man (university student?) riding his mamachari (way too fast) and impatient to get past. Except for that, everyone was extremely positive - especially the policemen at their booths, who often came out to say hello in the morning and who agreed that it was very safe and ingenious.

Later we upgraded to a double trailer (Chariot Cougar II) and that was also fine.

I would definitely recommend getting a small wheel electric bicycle to pull it if you are in Japan. The Panasonic we had (pictured above) was excellent. The bike itself is fairly short so overall length of bike+trailer was reduced.

Incidentally, we would also leave the trailer chained to a pole at kindergarten until it was time to go home. This was very convenient and what convinced us to stick with the trailer rather than try other options that looked good (like the "Cargobike" from the Netherlands, which I am told is also excellent).