This Bicycle Accident Could Have Been Much Worse

While out on a walk yesterday with her friend my wife witnessed a nasty bicycle accident.

Enjoying the warm sun and conversation while walking along a river-side path my wife looked into the distance and noticed a man shuffling slowly down the centre of the walkway. From behind him, at great speed, came another man on a mountain bike.

Without warning and without slowing the cyclist tried to squeeze his way between a tree and the pedestrian. As the cyclist's handlebar struck the tree and he was launched into the air my wife thought to herself "Oh no. I can't believe it, I saw this coming, how could he do such a stupid thing?"

A riverside path similar to where the accident occurred.
Photo by Karl Baron
The helmet-less cyclist landed with a loud crack after which he made no attempt to, or was unable to move. In shock my wife and her friend approached to find a man in his 70's lying on his back on the ground with the bicycle still between his legs. Being totally bald it was easy to see that he was bleeding from a nasty cut on his head. My wife's friend called an ambulance immediately while my wife applied some tissues to his head wound and began to question him about other possible injuries.

What happened next freaked my wife out. He did not seem able to move, or speak. Lying stationary where he fell, sweat beading on his forehead he seemed only able to move his eyes. They feared his injury was major and remained by his side offering what help and sympathetic words they could. They felt rather helpless.

Luckily before the ambulance arrived the cyclist regained his composure and was able to speak. Of the accident he remembered nothing he said. After some time he attempted to move but my wife and her friend encouraged him to stay where he was until the ambulance arrived, which it did after a few more minutes.

Upon their arrival the medics didn't bother to question my wife and her friend about the nature of the incident, instead, they pushed them away from the scene insisting that they could handle it from here. They went so far as to tell them to continue on their walk.

Obviously the police would attend the scene and want to question witnesses, so while the medics applied a neck brace, moved the man to a stretcher and bandaged his head my wife went to wash the blood from her hands.

When she returned police were at the scene and both my wife and her friend provided them with all the information they had about the accident. The police promptly, and correctly, concluded that the cyclist was 100% to blame for his own injuries.

While my wife was away washing her hands, her friend struck up conversation with the man who had been ambling along the centre of the pathway, the fellow the impatient cyclist tried to barge past. It turned out the reason he was walking so awkwardly was because he'd had spinal surgery late last year. He was told he would never walk again but through perseverance and willpower was back on his feet and steadily improving. Daily walks along the riverside path were part of his rehabilitation. Once the drama was over he decided to go directly home rather than risk another injury on what should have been a peaceful walk.

So, the cyclists through his impatience went to hospital with a head injury, but the outcome could have been much much worse. The pedestrian he almost hit could have easily been disabled, unable to walk, for life due to the inconsiderate actions of one old man which would have destroyed both of their lives.

Stay safe out there, and remember you're not only responsible for your own safety, but for the safety of those around you too especially when you're cycling around pedestrians as is so common here in Japan.

The human body is such a fragile thing.

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Bicycles Strike in the Heart of Japan's Motor City!

The Nagoya Cycle Trend event featuring sports bicycles from around the globe will be held at Port Messe Nagoya on March 1st and 2nd 2014.

The event will be held simultaneously with the Nagoya Auto Trend show, the largest auto show in Japan's Japan’s Chūbu region. Over 40 companies will exhibit their products at this year’s Cycle Trend, which will feature advanced racing bikes, tough mountain bikes for steep inclines and descents, casual bikes for urban rides, and the newest sports bikes from around the world.

Visitors to the show will be able to test ride bicycles from any number of exhibitors on the purpose built demo course, allowing them to compare styles, sizes prices and makers. Unlike many other exhibitions there will be no lack of shops at Nagoya Cycle Trend selling bicycles, bike-wear, helmets, gloves and more.

Interestingly the only way to obtain admittance to Nagoya Cycle Trend is to purchase an Auto Trend Ticket, but feel free to skip the Auto Show undead over to what we consider the main event, Nagoya Cycle Trend.

Entrance for middle school age and above is ¥2,000 (¥1,800 presale), and ¥800 (¥500 presale) for elementary school students. Presale tickets can be purchased at Circle K Sunkus stores throughout Japan.

Do you think automakers are playing with fire by supporting a cycle show which could potentially draw customers away from motor vehicles?


A Herniated Disc Is No Fun

Whenever I injure myself to the point where I can no longer cycle I immediately head to the Internet to seek out stories from cyclists who have experienced similar injuries to get some idea of how long I'll have to spend off the bike. But today I'm sharing my own story about a battle I've been having with a herniated disc (slipped disc) in my spine in the hope that the information I have can help other injured cyclists.

I began experiencing lower back pain in early January. Back pain comes and goes so I thought nothing of it especially as we'd spent a week at my mother-in-laws over New Years in which I spent the majority of the time, as the designated dish washer, hunched over a low kitchen sink. I figured it'd just get better like it always does.

Get better it did, so by mid January I was pretty much back to normal, but something, I do not know what, maybe poor posture at work, maybe a sneeze I seem to remember vividly, caused the pain to flare up again.

By the final week of January I was experiencing severe pain in my left buttocks. It felt like fire deep down inside, right near the hip joint, other times like after sitting or being immobile for a period of time it felt like all the muscles in my lower back and buttocks were squeezed tight. On occasions the pain would go down my leg, sometimes my foot would be a little "tingly". I was having trouble sitting comfortably, the pain was affecting my sleep, and getting up from a sitting or sleeping position was excruciating.

I did some googling and diagnosed myself with piriformis syndrome, a condition where muscles deep in the buttocks aggravate the sciatic nerve causing buttock and leg pain, not to mention tingling sensations in the feet. I then learned of some stretches which could alleviate the symptoms. I got to stretching right away.

I decided to stretch and rest for the weekend after an incredibly painful ride home on the last Friday of January. I told myself if didn't get better I'd go to the doctor on Monday.

It most certainly did not get better. It took almost 15 minutes and all the courage I could muster to get out of bed the following Monday. Most of that time was psyching myself up to deal with the pain of movement. I managed to get up in stages, finally utilising the windowsill stand up. As we sleep on futons it wasn't a matter of swinging my legs over the bed and standing, I had to get up from the floor. Once upright my walking gait was all over the place.

This needed professional help.

Skip the following paragraph if you don't want to read about toilet experiences ...

The final straw came when I needed to go, you know, sit down and go. When getting into the sitting position is painful, sitting itself is painful, getting back up is painful I really didn't want to go. But you can't refuse nature so I painfully got myself on the toilet and held myself up partly with my arms while I did what had to be done, then in intense pain got myself upright again.

I needed a doctor, fast.

I donned a pair of Crocs, because bending to do up shoelaces was impossible by this stage, and hobbled to the doctors just a few minutes away where I was informed of a 2 hour wait and was asked to take a seat. Ha! Like I could sit down even if I wanted! I left my card with them and choose to hobble home where I could stand in the living room without attracting undue attention.

Back at the doctors 2 hours later I received an x-ray and was informed that I have a herniated disk between the vertebrae at L4 and L5.

Whats going on, the doctor explained with the aid of a hand drawn diagram, was the cushion between my vertebrae was loosing its stuffing out the back and that stuffing was pushing on my spinal cord in just the right place to play absolute havoc with the sciatic nerve running down my left leg.

He explained my options:

1) Painkillers and stretching exercises
2) The above but with regular rehabilitation sessions
3) A injection of steroids to the lower back
4) Surgery

I chose option 1 thinking it better to start at the bottom and work up to more extreme treatments if that didn't work.

The doctor stretched my legs and spine this way and that in the painful almost brutal way that only doctors can knowing just how much your body can take. He then handed me a paper with stretching exercises almost identical to those I got from the Internet for piriformis syndrome and a prescription for two weeks worth of pain killers and anti inflammatory drugs (despite telling me I'd be good to go in 1 week).

I returned home, took a painkiller, and after the doctors manipulation I felt 100%, completely mobile, no pain. He's a miracle worker I thought, but it didn't last.

Tuesday I went to work and set myself up in a corner by a cabinet where I would work standing up. I tried to move around a bit and performed whatever stretches (few) I could in the standing position. Upon arrival home that evening my left ankle was in pain and my calf muscle all tight. I concluded this was because I'd been walking on a numb foot and that placed everything out of alignment.

Walking home from the station on Wednesday I discovered I had drop foot, my left foot would slap the pavement rather than being gently placed down in response to a signal from my brain to the muscles of my leg. This was disturbing as my list of aches and pains was getting longer.

But true enough after a week of drugs, stretching, standing at work and being generally careful about my back I could now get into a sitting position or up from a sleeping position without much pain. Despite the apparent improvement, sitting for any period caused pain to return to my buttocks and I was wobbling all over the place when I walked. Things were not right, but thank god the pain had been reduced.

During the second week after diagnosis I reduced my painkiller intake from 3 times a day to 2, and the buttock pain returned although not so intensely excruciating. I stretched, I stood, I walked on a half numb foot.

By rationing my painkillers I stretched and stood for a third week. By being careful I was able to operate almost entirely without pain, but careful still meant sitting for only short periods, not cycling, and I still had a numb foot which affected the mechanics of walking.

Last Saturday I went back to the doctor to explain I had hardly any pain, and that I was more worried about my lazy foot taking my entire body out of alignment causing damage all over the place. I wanted advice. What should I concentrate on, what should I avoid at all cost?

When I explained the situation the doctor quite sternly told me I wasn't stretching enough. I was surprised at this because I had been stretching morning and night and while at work I tried to move about and do whatever stretching I could in the upright position. Yet he insisted I was doing it wrong and needed to stretch more then proceeded to twist me into a pretzel, but compared to the pain of three weeks ago this pretzel pain was almost bearable.

The doctor then sent me to the rehabilitation room where I received 10 minutes of electrical muscle stimulation to my lower back and buttocks. This was followed by 10 minutes on the rack stretching my spine.  The doctor must have decided it was time for me to man up because no painkillers were forthcoming.

I was very tender to the touch around the left hip the following day. Until now the pain had been deep inside and poking it elicited no response. But after the doctor stretching me I could poke a thumb into my hip and cause one hell of a lot of pain. I'm convinced that was due to over enthusiastic stretching by the doctor, but its settled down.

So now its Monday, exactly three weeks since my initial consultation, and after three weeks off the bike where am I?

I sat at my desk, being mindful of my posture, for almost 2 hours this morning, but chose to return to my standing spot in an attempt to stop my body from getting locked into one position. I'll alternate between standing and sitting in the afternoon and see how it goes.

Pain wise, by left buttock and leg is OK, although the foot is still numb. Feeling returned after stretching this morning and walking was OK. But after sitting for a while the numbness returned.

Oddly after three weeks of butt hurt I'm only just now becoming aware of the pain in my back. According to my doctor this is as it should be, the pain should recede from the legs and buttocks indicating the nerve is no longer being pinched.  As a result of all the other pain going away I should begin to notice the back pain again.

I was expecting to be back on the bike before now, and could probably make the 7km to work and back each day, but I really do not want to aggravate the condition at this early stage. As difficult and frustrating as it is I'll stick with a stretching, sitting and standing regime this week and re-assess myself in a weeks time.

Recently the health dangers of sitting have been getting a lot of press coverage, its not just obesity, but back pain and a host of other conditions that can be bought about by inactivity. Sadly most of us, me included, are in professions that dictate we have to sit at our desks for at least 8 hours a day.

I really do want to encourage you to learn about the danger of "extreme sitting" as I'm calling it, and take countermeasures so you don't end up where I am right now.

I've crashed my bicycle countless times, I've broken bones after being hit by cars, but this is THE most excruciating pain I have ever experienced and it all comes from the innocent act of sitting.


Watch The Armstrong Lie Online

The story of professional cyclist Lance Armstrong's fall from grace played out in the media over what felt like years. If you're anything like me you decided quite early on that Lance was a lying cheating stain on the sport yet didn't feel any need to follow every detail the media circus bought to light.

But now the dust has settled and the truth has been sorted from the rum you can view all those months and years of agonising detail in just 124 minutes thanks to a new documentary by Alex Gibney entitled "The Armstrong Lie".

Gibney originally planned a documentary showing Lances extraordinary comeback to the sport after defeating cancer in 2009, but when Lance's lies were revealed Gibney decided to combine the footage he already had with interviews with the people that eventually bought Armstrong down.

Ultimately if you followed Lance's story in detail in the media you won't learn anything new from the interviews this movie, but if you're like me and hid under a rock you'll discover that "The Armstrong Lie" condenses all the facts into a quick an easily digestible format so that by the end you know the full story and didn't waste months getting it as it played out live.

Whether you have strong opinions on Lance Armstrong or not, he was such an influential figure in professional cycling, whose downfall shed light on the darker corners of the sport, and bought the UCI into disrepute that you really shroud see this movie. It will change the way you look at the sport of cycling.

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The Armstrong Lie

In 2009, Academy Award®-winning director Alex Gibney (2007, Best Documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side) was hired to make a film about Lance Armstrong’s comeback to cycling. The project was shelved when the doping scandal erupted, and re-opened after Armstrong’s confession. THE ARMSTRONG LIE picks up in 2013 after Armstrong was stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles, and presents a riveting, insider’s view of the unraveling of the greatest deception in sports history.

If you're in the United States you can rent and view The Armstrong Lie in the Embedded video player above for just $3.99. The Armstrong Lie DVD is also available from Amazon.



Four Interesting "Cargo Bikes" From Japan

Earlier this year I wrote that cargo bikes will have a difficult time finding a market in Japan among everyday cyclists. This is largely due to the fact that the existing bicycles available in Japan are more than adequate for the tasks Japanese people use them for every single day. Compared to the United States for example Japanese make more frequent trips to the supermarket, and buy less on each trip therefore there is little need for the large carrying capacity of a cargo bike. When it comes to carrying children Japanese manufacturers have a large range of bicycles available specifically designed to carry up to two children, and often against manufacturers specifications you'll see them carrying three. Add to this that electric versions of Japanese city bikes, or "mamachari", are coming down in price there is little room in the market for cargo bikes amongst daily bicycle users.

Despite this a number of Japanese manufacturers have begun experimenting with the idea of adding carrying capacity to small wheeled bicycles which are common in Japan. While none of the bicycles have the carrying capacity of cargo bikes available in the West they certainly have more than enough for the average Japanese cyclist.

The Rikisya Tank

As is often the case after natural disasters the bicycle emerges as one of the best transport options in the face of blocked roads and limited supplies of gasoline. In the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan people turned to their bicycles for carrying food, fresh water, blankets and kerosene etc.

The Rikisya Tank was developed as a "Post Disaster" bicycle.  In addition to a rear rack it has an innovative frame which is wide and split down the middle thus providing extra carrying capacity between the seat and handlebars. It is often photographed hauling jerrycan presumably full of water or kerosene between the seat and handlebars to demonstrate its usefulness post disaster.

In addition to the extra carrying capacity the bicycle features wide puncture proof, albeit non standard sized, tyres, and a dynamo light with connectors which can be used to charge mobile phones and various appliances.

Another interesting design feature is that the handlebars can be collapsed, and the whole bike be stored vertically using its rack and rear wheel as a stand. This allowing many bicycles to be stored in a space efficient manner for use after a natural disaster, but as you can imagine if stored bicycles aren't checked regularly you'll discover they've all got flat tyres in your time of need.

I personally find the idea of a "post disaster" bicycle quite interesting, unfortunately the Rikisya Tank is cheaply built from non standard parts which makes me question its durability and usefulness in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Also given that most people already own a bicycle which in a pinch can carry a jerry can of fresh water I don't believe the Rikisya Tank will find much of a market.

The 2 Way Outdoor Bicycle

With a less serious mission comes the 2 Way Outdoor Bicycle from Doppelganger, a 20inch folding bicycle with a seemingly huge 28L basket on the front and rear rack with a 10L basket attached to one side. This bicycle seems perfect for families who enjoy picnicking at the local park and need a bicycle to cart all of their gear.

Closer investigation of the Doppelganger marketing material reveals that they believe this bicycle is perfect for camping and has the luggage capacity to be useful as a post disaster bicycle, both of which I consider rather dubious claims given my experience with their bicycles in this price range in the past.

As this neat little folder comes with mudguards standard, and the large front basket can be removed it makes a great little commuter during the week, but can handle bigger loads on the weekends.

The Doppelganger 330 ROADYACHT

With limited carrying capacity the 330 ROADYACHT from Doppelganger features luggage space between the handlebars and seat post with the width of the carrying space becoming narrower towards the seat post so as to not interfere with the riders natural pedaling action.

While an interesting design this really does not offer any more carrying capacity than the average mamachari bicycle. The addition of a rear rack and front basket would make this a terrific little machine for carting gear around Tokyo, but as it stands in its current configuration this bicycle is perfect for short trips to the supermarket or carrying a bag of rice home as pictured.

The Bridgestone Assista Joshi Wagon

Unashamedly marketed towards housewives the Bridgestone Assista Joshi Wagon is a common sight on the streets of Tokyo. Available with or without electric assist this small wheeled bicycle comes equipped with a large rear basket, a front rack (which can be replaces with a basket) dynamo light and mudguards. In "Auto Economy Mode" the battery on the electric assist version will carry rider and luggage up to 35km before requiring a recharge.

Again it's carrying capacity is on par with a regular mamachari bicycle but its small wheels give it a low centre of gravity making it much easier to handle when fully loaded and the addition of electric assist makes carrying heavier loads a breeze.

While none of these bicycles can compete with Western cargo bicycles for sheer carrying capacity it is interesting to see Japanese manufacturers tackle the idea of "post disaster" bicycle, and that they are challenging how we think about carting goods on small wheel bicycles.

The mamachari is the station wagon of Japan, ideal for almost all tasks, but bicycle manufactures realise they will have a difficult time competing in such a crowded market and thus are experimenting with new designs in the hope of creating new markets. Many of the designs are hit and miss, but it's wonderful to see so many new ideas being tested here in Japan.


night pedal cruising

Night Pedal Cruising Valentines Bash and Onsen Ride 2014

Wash away your bad Valentines Day experiences at the Night Pedal Cruising Onsen Ride on February 15th!

Didn't receive any chocolates? No flowers? Your lover rejected your advances? Did you get turned down or spend Valentines Day alone? Were you forced to buy, or worse make, chocolates for everyone in your office? Well its time to wash away those Valentines Day blues on the Night Pedal Cruising Onsen Ride!

Riders will gather under the Night Pedal Cruising banner at the Aoyama United Nations University Farmers Market at 5:30pm on Saturday February 15, and will set off at 6:00pm.  Unlike most Night Pedal Cruising rides instead of cruising around the centre of Tokyo this ride heads west away from the city centre to the onsen "Utsukushi no Yu" in Takaido.

Along the way we'll cycle along Suidō dōro which features one of Tokyo's finest bicycle lanes, a rare opportunity indeed to cycle in a bike lane in Tokyo! Don't miss it!

At the end of the cold winters ride you can relax in the warm waters of Utsukushi no Yu which features attractive outdoor rotenburo baths, a range of indoor tubs and a 'relaxation room' fitted out with rows of reclining massage chairs. I believe you're also free to use the 25m swimming pool.

There is a small restaurant on site which serves good cheap food and drink. Living local I know some restaurants in the area, but I expect few could handle the vast number of Night Pedal Cruising members!

To bathe at the onsen or not is completely up to you. Utsukushi no Yu charges ¥1,200 for use of the facilities and you can rent face towels, and bath towels for ¥50 and ¥100 respectively.

As always dress warm as Night Pedal Cruising rides travel at a leisurely pace, and remember to bring lights, cameras (no nude pictures in the onsen please!) bells, whistles, and any kind of mobile sound system you may have.

As many of you know I'm suffering from a back injury, but thanks to strong painkillers and a daily stretching routine I'm on the mend and this will be my comeback ride after two weeks of no cycling. If I haven't fully recovered I will still meet the ride as it cruises past my neighbourhood and hang out at the onsen. Look forward to seeing everyone there!

For more information visit the Night Pedal Cruising event page.



Six Candidates for Tokyo Governor Support Cycling in the City

On January 27, 2014, organisers of the Tokyo Cycling City petition aimed at improving cycling infrastructure in Tokyo in the lead up to the 2020 Olympics presented their demands to 11 of the 16 of the Tokyo gubernatorial election candidates.

The petition, which has collected over 6,000 signatures to date, asks candidates for the post of Tokyo Governor to take action in the following areas:

1) To expand and Improve Tokyo's sadly lacking network of cycling lanes.

2) To provide sufficient bicycle parking in convenient locations around the city.

3) To implement a city wide bicycle sharing scheme.

Of the 16 candidates contacted just 6 have responded officially to the survey, and as the election is just days away it appears unlikely that more will do so.

Candidates were presented with each of the three demands and were asked to rank their support for each issue with choices ranging from making any or all of the points an election pledge, or agreeing in principle and to strive to achieve the goals right down to outright rejection of the proposals.

Both Ieiri Kazuma and Yoshiro Nakamatsu (Doctor Nakamatsu) responded by making all three points of the petition election pledges. With Kazuma taking an environmental stance on the issue while Doctor Nakamatsu expressed concern with the currently accepted but quite dangerous practice of cyclists mixing with pedestrians.

Candidates Yōichi Masuzoe and Suzuki Tatsuo indicated that they supported all the points in principal and agreed to strive to achieve the goals if elected to the post of Governor of Tokyo. Suzuki indicated that cycling infrastructure should be improved regardless of the 2020 Olympics.

Political heavyweight, and former Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa made extension and improvement of Tokyo's network of cycling lanes along with a city wide bicycle sharing system election pledges and showed principal support for more parking facilities in convenient locations around the city. Why he chose to place a lower priority on parking is a mystery as an improvement in cycling lanes will undoubtedly create a need for more parking.  Hosokawa aims not only to crate a bicycle sharing scheme such as those in London, Paris and New York, but to also improve the walkability in Tokyo.

Finally Kenji Utsunomiya made improvement of cycling lanes an election pledge and showed support in principle for better parking facilities and a city wide bicycle sharing scheme. In his comments he noted that densely populated cities such as Tokyo should strive to be less car centric.

So of 16 candidates contacted, 6 respond. Those showing the most support by making election pledges do not necessarily make the most enlightened comments while some of those that agree in principle seem to have a better grasp of the issue.

The big thing we can take from this exercise is that of the 11 candidates contacted 5 of those chose to COMPLETELY IGNORE cycling infrastructure as an election issue. Even so, we have to take pride in the fact that we collected over 6,000 signatures, and presented them along with our demands to each of the candidates, one of whom will become Governor of Tokyo this weekend. Even those who chose not to respond to the petition have heard that the citizens of Tokyo want better cycling infrastructure. Maybe we're just a tiny blip on their radar, but our presence has been made known.

Correction: The article originally stated all 16 candidates had been presented with the petition when only 11 had. It appears that 5 of the 16 were unable to be contacted, making them unworthy of your vote, after all who wants to vote for a candidate that can't be contacted for an opinion?