Bicycles in disaster zones, Japan and Swindon

An old colleague of mine, Coop, is currently living and working in Japan where they recently suffered a very powerful earthquake. As soon as I read about it on the BBC news site I was straight onto her blog to check if she was ok. Luckily she had posted soon after the quake to reassure readers that she was fine. Although she did feel the quake, she was a long way from the danger zone. Some of the best bicycle stuff in the world comes from Japan (Nitto, Shimano, loads of small frame-builders outside Osaka etc) and they have a strong sense of the aesthetic in their bike-culture, Western Messenger/Fakenger chic looks sensible and conservative compared with the Japanese versions. It didn’t really surprise me then to see this brief article posted up on recently, showing how bikes can really come into their own in terms of getting things moving again in the affected areas in Japan.

bikes in Japan after earthquake

Here in Britain, only yesterday an entire month’s worth of rain fell in one day. My mother was on her way home from looking after my sister’s children when she found the traffic coming to a complete halt on the dual carriageway out of Abbey Meads, Swindon. She had been there a little while and assumed there was just a crash or something that would soon clear, but then she saw a young man on a bicycle heading up the road through the downpour, stopping at each car and talking briefly to the occupants. When he reached my mother’s car he told her that it was total chaos in the road ahead, the canal had just burst its banks and the culverts couldn’t take the water off fast enough, cars were stranded in a huge pool of water that stretched across all the lanes. People were stuck, unable to turn round, unable to go forward. The lad himself had lifted his bike above his head and waded through the water to tell the cars further down the road to turn back. He then went on to help direct the cars as they turned round. She last saw him disappearing in her rear-view mirror, standing in the pouring rain, stopping cars and turning them back. It took my mother three hours twenty minutes longer than normal to get home, going far out of her way and getting redirected twice by the Police. But if it wasn’t for the young man on the bicycle who had quickly alerted the stationary drivers to what had happened, helped them turn round then redirected the oncoming traffic, long before the police got there, she would have been sat in that car a lot longer. I don’t know when the police turned up, but I bet it would have taken a lot longer to sort out and extract the traffic jam if that chap on the bike hadn’t have taken the initiative.

Surely that has to count as a good mark for cyclists in general and it must cancel out a few ‘red light jumpers’?

More on the Swindon floods from the BBC.

Published in: on July 21, 2007 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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