"Moms in the Fast Lane - Biking With Kids"
By Cornelia [21 April 1999]

"Child-safety experts now believe that bike riding with a baby involves too many risks. Don't even consider taking your baby along unless your child is at least one year old. Avoid busy thoroughfares. Better yet hire a sitter."

I am quoting from the very popular book (in the USA), What to Expect the First Year, by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Murkoff and Sandee Hathaway (copyright 1989, p 318)

Yikes! Some advice simply does not apply to dwellers of Tokyo-to. I get a monthly newsletter from my daughter's daycare. One of them offered a safety note which loosely translated said that it is not a good idea to carry more than two children on one bicycle.

Japanese mothers do not bicycle for exercise but as an alternative to doing chores on foot, such as buying groceries. While not bicycling fast, these moms are carrying groceries in several baskets, and often have one or two children strapped into front and back children's seats.

I also do not have a car, so I started using my bicycle about a week after the birth of my daughter, and my baby was comfortable rocking along for the ride in a sling type carrier. We had to visit the ward office to record her birth within 14 days. (I arrived on day 15 and was asked to write a short apology explaining why I was a day late.) I also had to get her a visa at immigration which couldn't be done until after she got her passport at the US Embassy. I found that riding my bicycle was much more comfortable than walking or taking trains. For some reason, walking put more stress on my post-birth soreness.

Later I used the bicycle in the late hours of night as a way to calm my daughter or even to get her to sleep, much the way desperate parents in the US sometimes will drive their infants in aimless circles at midnight. She is two years old now and continues to love it when we go bicycling. She attempts to get me right back in the saddle saying, "Mama, seat" after I have jumped off to push us up a steep hill. She doesn't understand the exertion factor yet.

The bicycle is a part of our daily life in Tokyo. For visitors I have a second bicycle now. They are parked outside on the sidewalk. I have come to regard them as a necessity for urban living. When people ask me about moving back to the US, I sometimes answer only half in jest, "my bicycle would probably get stolen within a week." But the truth is that I did lose one bike to theft in Tokyo, so be sure to lock up!

[In Tokyo, bicycle registration (cost: JY500 + JY25 tax) is mandatory on paper, but lots of people simply don't do it. I personally highly recommend it. This can be done at any bicycle shop. Proof of purchase (eg. letter from seller plus original registration if bought 2nd hand) and identification is needed. Police sometimes have bicycle check points where they verify ownership. A registration in your wallet matching the number on your bicycle is more expeditious than remembering to carry your original purchase receipt. Though I was stopped many times before I had a baby, now that there is a child seat attached to my bicycle I seem to be beyond suspician.]

Epilogue: 20 April 1999 ...after about 5 months... I got a call from the Kanda police station this morning at 7:50 am that they found my stolen bicycle in Suidobashi, I can retrieve it at the station, and the bike is rideable! So it was definitely worth my while to file a theft report at my local police box.

Quick Poll
Do you ride a bicycle for shopping chores?
Yes, but alone
Yes, with a child
Yes, with two kids!
No, I walk
No, I use a car

(Poll started 10 May 1999)

Related Discussions:
Shopping in Japan: Bicycles
Traveling to/from and in Japan: Bicycling in Japan
Repairs and Maintenance: Bicycle Repair Shops

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