- 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.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Win for Sanity

The Tokyo police had announced last year that they were going to begin to sting cyclists for behaviour such as riding with two children, front and back - something that apparently is actually an unenforced no-no.

Well, would you believe, the public reaction was so strong that the police have announced that they will not after all start issuing fines for such behavior. Instead they have requested bicycle makers to make bicycles that are safer for young children. The news has been all over the talk back and TV news.

I think this is a wonderful outcome, and strongly suspect that the police had this in mind from the outset, but simply wished to use it to force a public safety awareness campaign. And by the looks of it, that is exactly what they got. Nothing more, nothing less. Fantastic. A typically Japanese approach to a public issue. I wish the police would use the same force with driver safety issues. But then, perhaps they realize that "driver safety" is something of an oxymoron.

All the same, my wife and I do not use standard Japanese "Mama-chari" (ママチャリ) with our kids. We bought a trailer that can be pulled by a bicycle (子供乗せトレーラー), ours is a Chariot). That way even if the parent slips and the bike falls over, the children are still sitting pretty in the back (yelling nonchallantly "Mum! What are you doing up there?!") There are many other options also, the most practical of which is probably the beautiful Bakfiets Cargobike which has a low centre of gravity(低い重心), so that a tumble is far less likely to hurt anyone than a mama-chari, and also has a rain cover for the children. As the kids get a little older, I find they enjoy riding on my Xtracycle, and the concept is more or less the same but without the rain protection.

Anyhow, there is quite a bit of talk on TV and radio etc about finding the perfect bicycle for families... if you hear such talk, please let them know that such options already exist in the form of the Chariot and the Xtracycle and the Cargobike and others.

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