The cycling ‘school run mums’ of Japan – of which there are very, very many – are currently in the midst of a battle with the authorties over the specification of their kiddy carrying bikes.
Some time ago the Japanese government reviewed its traffic laws. Cyclists seemed to be particularly hard hit ; no longer would they be able to ride on pavements, use mobile phones or mp3 players or carry open umbrellas.
But the intended amendment which seems to have caused most unhappiness was the one banning sannin-nori, the practice whereby a mother transports her young children to school on a bicycle, one in a basket at the front and the other on a seat at the rear with the mother pedalling between them. (Many Japanese kindergartens ban people from bringing their children to school by car ed.)
Such was the pressure from mothers that the National Police Agency has caved in on the idea, on condition that stronger, safer bikes are used. However, the matter is not resolved as the cost of a new child-carrying bike that meets the safety standards is high compared to the cost of a normal bike with child seats. “It will cost 10 percent to 20 percent more just for a reinforced frame,” a Bridgestone official said.
One or two places are aiming to offer help to their residents in the form of a subsidy towards the cost of a bike that meets the new standards, or renting out such bikes. But most places don’t, in sharp contrast to the subsidies offered when child car seats became mandatory in 2000.
Another suggestion that has not gone down well is that tricycles might be used, being more stable. The cost of a tricycle is about £500 as against about £50 for the traditional design of “mama-chariot”, as they are known, with its basket, child seat, kick-stand, built-in lock and one gear.
Those carrying two children on a non-approved bike could be fined but the police agency plans to start issuing warnings instead until the sale of new models gets into full swing and the public becomes fully acquainted with the new rules.