On April 1, Aichi eased cycling regulations to let tandem bicycles use public roads, becoming the first prefecture in the Tokai region to do so.
Previously, tandem bikes were only ridable in parks for leisure purposes. The change is expected to greatly benefit people with impaired vision, allowing them to pair up with others to take long rides.
On April 9, two men in their 60s were riding a tandem bike in a park in Kariya. Sitting in the front was 65-year-old Tadao Takahashi, a bicycle mechanic from the city. Behind him sat Hiroshi Yamada, 69, a cram school teacher from Nagoya who is completely blind.
“Starting with our right side. Ready, go!”
Under Takahashi’s directions, the two pedaled in sync and sped up along the road.
“The wind feels good,” Yamada said as the spring breeze blew against his skin.
The two met three years ago. At the time, Yamada was planning on participating in a competition for quadruplets and Takahashi, a bicycle aficionado for over 50 years, offered to join his team. Yamada ended up participating with another rider, but the two remained in contact.
Very few tandem bikes are manufactured locally. Most are custom made or imported. Takahashi’s tandem was custom made about 40 years ago but sat unused in his garage, given the few opportunities he had to ride it.
Takahashi finally took it out for polishing after the Aichi Prefectural Public Safety Commission revised cycling regulations last month to make tandem bikes street legal.
The pair rode for about an hour, passing intersections where many cars drive and traveling along a river.
“The movement and speed are very different from a quad. I’d like to try traveling somewhere farther next time,” said Yamada.
“We need to communicate out loud and make sure our bodies are in sync when we are turning, but it was actually fun to do that,” added Takahashi.
According to the Aichi Prefectural Police, regulations on light forms of transport such as bicycles are determined by public safety commissions in each prefecture.
In Aichi, the Velotaxi rickshaw service is allowed to operate on public streets, but tandem bicycles are only allowed to do so in eight prefectures including Nagano, Niigata, Hyogo and Miyazaki. Unlike regular bicycles, however, the Road Traffic Act prohibits the use of tandems on sidewalks.
The Japan Cycling Association promotes tandem bikes to elderly and disabled people as a way to build strength, but riding the two-seaters also requires developing a new set of skills.
“People should practice properly before going on the road,” advised JCA head Hiroshi Kobayashi.
This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on April 21.