Monday, October 20, 2014

Pedal power - liberating the legs of Tokyo

I enjoy walking. I don't mean the type of walking that includes hiking up a mountain but the type that takes me around the city. The back streets of Tokyo can be interesting once you're off the main routes and usually provide useful short cuts. I'll happily walk for an hour rather than take a taxi or train providing the weather complies. But there has been an interesting trend over the last couple of years that was clearly evident this morning. The electric bike.

I live on a hill and a fairly steep one at that. And as I walked to a morning meeting today I was overtaken by a lady riding her electric shopping bike with baby seat and infant onboard effortlessly riding up the hill. And then walking back after my meeting I met my seventy year old retired neighbour shooting up the hill as well on his electric bicycle without a hint of breaking into a sweat.

Coming to the fore in the London Olympics where they were used by the pacers in the keirin events (operated by a marvellously moustached rider) they form a successful and growing segment of the Japanese two wheeled market. To avoid heavy regulation they are usually a constant torque device where pedalling is effectively the on-switch and the motor does the rest. The battery can be unclipped and taken into the house for overnight charging. Now, if we could just persuade people to wear cycle helmets in Japan…

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