Sunday, 1 January 2012
Coming from New Zealand to Japan back in 1998 I was surprised to see that bicycle helmets were not required by law in Japan. New Zealand is the only country apart from Australia which actively enforces mandatory all-age bicycle helmet laws nationally (although adults are exempt in the Northern Territory of Australia !). The law was enforced in New Zealand in January 1994. So for many years I have enjoyed the freedom of not having to wear a helmet on a daily basis like I did when I lived in New Zealand & Australia but in the years that I have lived in Japan I have had several close calls with cars that often made me think about wearing a helmet. Of course all official bicycle events in Japan require helmets to be worn otherwise you can not enter, but 95% of cyclists don't bother to wear a helmet on a daily basis riding to work or school. Japanese roads are often very narrow and even though you are still allowed to cycle on the footpath that can be dangerous as well as more often or not it's very narrow , not smooth and of course full of pedestrians. With the recent bicycle boom more people are riding lightweight sports bikes e.g road bikes, single speeds, fixes and travelling at greater speeds than before but still helmets have not become popular. It is true that previous helmets styles were not very attractive to the fashionable cyclist but these days there is a wide range of modern styles, colors and shapes to suit everybody. Pictured above is a Italian made Kask road helmet and Bern a new style of helmet from America. If you are thinking about wearing a helmet there is now a style to suit everybody and if you do have a crash it might just be the difference that saves your life.