(Mamachari video by softypapa)
I confess - I own a mamachari. It is a really simple bicycle that you see all over Japan. Usually mothers use them for quick trips to the grocery store or to bring the kids to kindergarden. Thus the name, a combination of "mama" and "chariot". Nope, the mamachari is not particularly sexy, but it is easy to ride and always comes with a basket up front. Plus a baby seat. Or sometimes two babyseats: one up front and one in the back. When the government tried to ban the mamachari with two babyseats, mothers all over Japan protested in a massive campaign. The government had to back down (no kidding), and a discussion finally started about how this country should build more bikeroads.
Shigeki Kobayashi, head of the Bicycle Usage Promotion Study Group, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization, says to The Yomiuri:
"Mothers want the means and conditions for them to be able to transport their children safely. Even if three-seat bicycles are developed, there remain fears that cyclists could crash into pedestrians or that the riders could fall on the pavement. The debates should proceed in a manner that clearly sets aside separate spaces for pedestrians, bicycles and cars."
The mamachari has become something of a cultural icon in a country that tries to be more energy-efficient and where housewives generally hold the purse. Trying to reduce your gasolin expenditures? Consider getting a mamachari!
At the Tokachi International Speedway, the annual Mamachari Endurance Race has turned into a festival of fun. Hundreds of participants join the race each summer.
As the photos show, some ride for fun, dressing up in cosplay fashion as StarWar characters or maids. The bear costume must be terribly hot and uncomfortable for a 12 hour endurance race!
During the G8 Summit in July, 2008, a local NGO organized a Mamachari Bicycle Trip for Peace - using only mamacharis during the 1300 km ride. In the photo the students pose in front of the Japanese Parliament building in Tokyo. Greenz.jp helped them with their Mamachari Blog, as a chronicle of the journey.
I had to add this photo, didn't I.
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp