Japan’s “moms to school cyclists” – of whom there are many, many – are currently in the midst of a battle with the authorities over the specifications of their children’s transport bikes.
Some time ago, the Japanese government revised its highway code. Cyclists seemed particularly affected; they would no longer be able to ride on sidewalks, use cell phones or mp3 players, or carry open umbrellas.
But the planned amendment that seems to have caused the most discontent was the one that prohibited sannin-nori, the practice of a mother carrying her young children to school on a bicycle, one in a basket in the front and the other in a seat in the back, with the mother pedaling between them. (Many Japanese kindergartens prohibit people from driving their children to school, editor’s note.)
Such was the pressure from mothers that the National Police Agency gave in to the idea, provided that stronger and safer bicycles were used. However, the issue is not resolved as the cost of a new child carrier bicycle that meets safety standards is high compared to the cost of a normal bicycle with child seats. “It will cost 10-20% more for a reinforced frame alone,” said a Bridgestone official.
One or two places aim to offer assistance to their residents in the form of a subsidy for the cost of a bicycle meeting the new standards, or the rental of such bicycles. But most places don’t, unlike the subsidies offered when child car seats became mandatory in 2000.
Another suggestion that was not well received is that tricycles could be used, being more stable. The cost of a tricycle is around £ 500 versus around £ 50 for the traditional ‘mama-cart’ design, as they are called, with its carrycot, child seat, kickstand, integrated lock and derailleur.
Those carrying two children on an unapproved bicycle could be fined, but the police agency plans to start issuing warnings instead until sales of new models are in full swing and the public becomes fully familiar with the new rules.