Japanese Bike Mamas Revolt - Government Relents (A Little)

Pimped Mamachari photo
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Photo Duncan Brotherton via Everything Creative, Everything Kansai.

In Japan, sidewalk riding was one of the practices banned when the country reviewed its traffic laws. Along with that, however, the venerable urban biking tradition of moms (and some dads and grandparents) carrying two children on their low-slung safety bikes called 'mamachari' (Japanese slang term composed of 'mama' and 'charinko' or bike) for daily errands and school pickups also nearly became banned due to safety concerns. Outraged Japanese parents protested, and the government relented...at least a little.

New safety rules apply

When you see pictures of mamachari bikes with one little one nestled in the dip between the handlebars and another over the back wheel, you could be excused for feeling a bit of trepidation. It's a heavy and somewhat unsteady load for a single cyclist to bear - mostly when making a stop and balancing the two kids during unloading. But the government's decision to outlaw 2-kids-on-a-bike was pretty shortsighted, and protests lead to a lifting of the ban, and instead legislating that mamachari bikes become safer - with among other things, a reinforced frame - and that the safer bikes become mandatory.

That, of course, wasn't exactly satisfactory to parents, as the new, stronger bikes are much more expensive than the typical mamachari bikes now in use. So, the government has said it will be lenient on old-fashioned mamachari bicycles for awhile while new bikes come down in price. Eventually, fines of 20,000 yen for bicycle violations will be enforced. Some prefectures are considering some kind of bike rental scheme to make 'safer' bikes available to the public, and a couple have offered to subsidize the new bikes.

Via Hideo at JapanCycling.org and Yomiuri Daily.