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More cycle to work following earthquake

03-01-2012 10:58 BJT

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In Japan, more and more people are choosing to cycle to work following the massive earthquake last march - which disrupted the country's public transportation infrastructure. Jeremy Spiro-Winn has the story.

Stations were shut, and passengers stranded -- this was the situation in Tokyo after the massive earthquake that struck the country's northeastern coast on March 11, 2011. Thousands were unable to get home, staying overnight in offices after engineers closed most of the city's subways and commuter lines. But cyclists like Masaaki Hayashi faced no such problem. After the quake rattled the capital's transport infrastructure, Hayashi weaved his bike through bumper-to-bumper traffic on a 20-kilometer ride home into Tokyo's suburbs.

Masaaki Hayashi, bicycle commuter, said, "On March 11 I was working at the office when the big earthquake hit and the building began to shake really hard. On the television, I heard that the transportation system had ground to a halt. There were some people at the office who stayed there overnight, others who walked home. But because I was commuting into work by bike, I was able to cycle all the way home. You remember the streets -- so if there's an earthquake and the transport system is down, you can get home. It's a good way to prepare."

Bicycle groups said numbers of cycle commuters have spiked since the earthquake. The Japan Bicycle Promotion Institute said in the six months from March to August last year, domestic shipments of new bicycles boomed more than 15 percent compared to the same period in 2010.

Hiroshi Uehara, manager of Nicole Eurocycle, said, "Well you never know when the next disaster will hit, so we're seeing a big increase in customers just wanting bikes that can get them into work on their own steam -- you know, looking for bikes that you don't have to be an athlete to ride as there are some people still afraid of the high-end ones. There's also been an increase in customers who already have bikes looking to get them repaired."

With many commuters dusting off old bikes rather than buying new ones, The Japan Cycling Association (JCA) said the real increase in cyclists on the streets could be as high as five times the level before March. But the worry for the JCA now is ensuring the safety of Tokyo's new cycle aficionados. Government statistics in 2010, showed that cyclists made up 16 percent of road fatalities in Japan, compared to 3.7 percent in France, or 5.8 in the UK.

Keiichi Nagasawa, managing director of Japan Cycling Assoc., said, "Parents tell children they should cycle on the pavement -- and because of that bad habit, accidents are increasing on the sidewalks. It also leads to a tendency for people to ignore the rules when they're actually on the road, like running red lights or not cycling on the left. That's why accidents are increasing."

New police guidelines issued in October, in response to the surge in bicycles on the streets, recommend most cyclists use the road - with sidewalks limited to elderly or younger riders.

 

Editor:Liu Fang |Source: CNTV.CN

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