bikes,

Japan's Post Disaster Bicycle, the Rikisya Tank

5/14/2013 Byron Kidd 1 Comments

The Rikisaya Tank is a bicycle from Japan designed for post disaster situations.

In the evening of March 11, 2011 after the tragic earthquake and tsunami struck northern Japan in many bicycle stores in Tokyo sold out in a matter of hours as desperate commuters attempted to make their way home after train and subway lines around the city were bought to a halt.  In the days after the disaster many residents of Tokyo chose the bicycle as an alternative to the intermittent train schedules.  In the following weeks and months bicycle commuters in the city were at an all time high.

Closer to the disaster area bicycles were being used to move people and supplies, generate electricity and even to purify water.  A small troupe of doctors in the disaster zone chose the bicycle as their main means of transport as bikes allowed them to access areas difficult to access by car.

Even in Tokyo, weeks after the disaster many people without running water and were forced to walk to their local water distribution point every few days and carry heavy tanks of water back to their home.  For this task many chose to balance water tanks on the back of their bicycles.

The Rikisaya Tank is one attempt to create a bicycle primarily for use in post disaster situations.  The bicycle has been designed with a large carrying capacity, in particular the ability to carry a tank of kerosene or water, a low centre of gravity, long wheelbase and stable kickstand.  Accessories including panniers and rack extensions can be used to increase the bikes carrying capacity even further.  The bicycles dynamo powered light can also be used to charge a mobile phone or portable radio.  The wide, thick rubber tyres provide an advantage when riding over uneven terrain.

Some have remarked the the non standard parts would see the Rikisaya Tank abandoned for a more conventional bicycle in a post disaster situation, others believe it has very little to offer over a conventional cargo bicycle.  I believe the bike is far from perfect, but also know a lot of people who would have welcomed such a bicycle in the days and weeks after the terrible events of March 11, 2011.

Hopefully we will see even better designed and built post disaster and utility bicycles at affordable prices in the future.

More photos of the Rikisaya Tank and its many functions can be found on the Cycle Spot blog.

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