July 02, 2009

Japanese Police Bicycles

The rider in the distance was out of the saddle of what appeared to be a mamachari, pumping hard and swaying side to side. "Get off the road, you're a danger to yourself", I though to myself as I approached. In the little time it took me to catch up I realized this was no ordinary rider, this was a policeman, on his heavy mamachari like police bike. Interested to see where this was leading I dropped into his slipstream, sat up in the saddle and rode at a leisurely pace behind him as he exerted a considerable amount of just keeping his bike moving forward.

As we reached the line of cars waiting at the intersection he disappeared onto the sidewalk. "Wonder what that was all about?", I think as I ride between two rows of cars leading up to the red light up ahead. While waiting for the traffic light to turn green I peer back down the row of cars to see the policeman dismount, knock on the window of a van and instruct the driver pull his vehicle into a driveway. The driver complied, the light turned green, I rode off, and maybe, just maybe one more dangerous driver was taken off our roads.

If you've ever seen a Japanese police bicycle you'll know they are not designed for pursuit, they're more like what you'd expect your local postman to ride if you were living in the 1950's. They're manufactured by Japanese bicycle maker Bridgestone especially for the police departments of Japan. However I believe Bridgestone was awarded the contract purely on account of being a Japanese company rather than on the quality or design of the bicycles they provide to the police departments across the nation.

Don't get me wrong, Bridgestone make some terrific bicycles, both road and mountain alike, but the bicycles developed for the police department are not much different than your regular mamachari. Being "mens bikes" they have a traditional diamond frame rather than the sloping top tube of a mamachari, but that is just about where the differences end.

The rear rack supports a small lockable metal box which judging from is size holds a clipboard full of paperwork (in triplicate), and the only other noticeable difference from a mamachari is a tube attached to the front fork designed for holding a baton. (Japanese police love their batons, bokken, staffs and sticks. Overcompensating for a deficiency in the stick department perhaps?)

Although I'm unsure of the gearing of the police bikes, judging by the effort it took the policeman in front of me to keep his bike above 20km/h, I don't believe they're geared for sprinting. So unless these bicycles behave in the same manner as the Tommy Lee Jones' car in Men in Black, I consider them woefully inadequate for police work.

Which do you think will come first. Cops on more practical police bikes, or cops on electric-assist mamachari? (Both with stick holders, of course.)

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