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Tamagawa Blues

Andrew Deane

Speeding Up
Aug 17, 2007
Sunday morning found me humming along the Tamagawa, enjoying the warm sunshine on my shoulders, the distant view of snowy mountains, and the glinting light on the river. As Browning might have said, God was in His heaven and all was right with the world.

Or, so I thought! The next moment, I hit a crest in the tarmac path, momenarily lost the line, and looked up to find that I was bearing down on an old man on a mama-chari at close to 25 kph. What followed was like a slow-motion comedy of errors: I instinctively corrected right (I'm from Canada); he corrected left (he's Japanese); we realized we were still collision-bound; we both corrected again; and I pulled hard on the brakes, leaving a good deal of my rear tire on the tarmac. Alas, it was not enough, and we crunched front wheels.

I looked up to find him standing over me, dazed, but unharmed. My spandex bike shorts were caught on his brake handle, and when I fnally rose to my feet, I was feeling pretty sheepish indeed. He muttered something about braking, smiled and got back on his bike. As he departed, I think I even shook his hand, or something equally surreal.

I picked up my bike, which looked fine, and went to push it. The front wheel had buckled: my ride was over.:(

Mercifully, neither of us was hurt, but my pride is severely dented, and my front wheel is, as they say, history. I take full responsibility for the accident, but as I stood waiting for my patient wife to pick me up, I got to thinking.:confused:

I have been in Tokyo for just over nineteen months, and I have had two bicycle accidents in that time (in the first I collided with a drunken j-walker as he stumbled across the road late at night near Roppongi Hills). Neither accident has been serious, and neither has involved cars, but in all my previous twenty or so years of riding, I'd only had three acidents! Was I getting careless? Do others have similar tales of woe?

As I waited for my wife, I watched one guy nearly wipe the tarmac on exactly the same crest I hit, and another two people narrowly miss a head-on collision by about half a foot. On the road behind me, a motorcycle nearly t-boned some idiot making an illegal u-turn in the middle of the road! :eek:

The Tamagawa is so crowded with riders (professonal, amateur, mama-charis, and yes, the merely reckless - a group to which I seem to have newly acquired membership...), and with lovers, mothers, elderely couples and tiny tots. Given the traffic, I would be surprised if my experience was rare, but it has unsettled me to say the least. The potential for serious injury is staggering. I am curious whether others have had similar experiences.

So, where do roadies go when they want to hammer down relentlesly and fearlessly?
Sorry to read about the accident Andrew, :( but even happier to read no one was hurt except the 愛車..:)

I hesitate to write this, as it is seriously tempting fate, but I've only ever had one semi-serious bike accident in my life. It must have been when I was about 10-ish or so, and it was on my first "proper" bike, a green-and-black Raleigh with Sturmey Archer 3-speed gears. It had a gigantic plastic spedomoter that detected speed via a plastic wheel directly on the tire, and went bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz all the time.

Anyway, I was coasting along a lane near my house, when, for some reason I've long since forgotten, I decided that I would try riding the bike like an Arabian sorcerer sitting on a flying carpet (ie cross-legged). So, I lifted up my feet off the pedals, tried to cross them in front of me, and--you can probably guess what's coming next--stuck my right foot right into the spokes of the front wheel.

The front wheel stopped immediately, of course, but me and the rest of the bike kept going. It was a perfectly executed front flip over the bars, but with a less than perfect landing.

Amazingly, I was completely unhurt. Some old gent who had happened to be walking by said; "You shouldn't put your front brake on so hard, lad," which even at that age struck me as such a dumbfoundingly idiotic thing to say that I was rendered speechless.

Anyways, I'm not sure what to advise, except ride in the countryside? Not very practical, I know. I find city riding really exhausting, as there is so much you have to focus all the time, and you can never really relax or zone out. Pedestrians and mama-charis are the true menace, because they're so much more unpredictable than cars. The close shaves I've had are with pedestrians jay-walking in front of me without ever looking my way, or somehow contriving to look THROUGH me. You'd think an oversized gaijin in garish bike lycra, sporting a red foam hat and puffing like a steam engine would stand out a bit, but apparently not...

at weekends is hairy....no other word for it. I have been close to the exact accident on a couple of occasions. Better to keep off it during peak hours at weekends and holidays I think. Early is no problem at all though, say up to 0800.
Other than that I recommend the open spaces of Edogawa if you can make it.

On Saturday the only event that I had was, predictably, about 500m from home on the return when some jerk in a Range Rover slewed across in front of me to turn left with no signal just as another numbskull on a mamachari lurched off the pavement in front of me without looking. Need your wits about you in old Edo !!

Tamagawa is very nice if you don't cycle there on week-ends, or in "good" evenings - the rush hours, when local folks want to enjoy their mamachari ride :bike: at 7 kmh :)

I've been in Japan since April 2007 and started cycling in June. In September I had my first (and hopefully the last) near-death experience, which put me in "blues" mode for 2 weeks or so. It was in the middle of my first Tokyo-Yokosuka-Tokyo trip. It was getting dark, I was very very tired and was hurrying home. I came to a crossroad, cycling in the middle of the lane and took my turn to the right across the entire intersection. That's when I realized - there was still traffic in the opposite lane! Don't remember why I didn't notice it before turning - maybe there were no lights on the cars (it wasn't dark enough), maybe I was too tired... I was going really fast and had no time to slow down properly before I hit the side of a van passing in the opposite lane - I flew over the handle bar behind the van. I don't know why gods spared me after seeing such stupidity - but the van was the last vehicle in the opposite traffic - and I was safe, except for a hard bruise on my knee. The bike's frame and handle bars were all scratched, the brakes screwed, even one pedal was bent. Luckily, I didn't see the van after I got up and moved my ass from the crossroad.. and the bruise is still there to remind me of how dangerous the fun ride can become if you lose your focus :eek:uch:
Q: So, where do roadies go when they want to hammer down relentlesly and fearlessly?

A:....into those distant snowy mountains we go:D!....it's a paradise out there compared to Tamagawa CR! (This road is not meant for serious cycling anyways. It merely serves as an access to the wide open mountains of Okutama, Yamanashi or Chichibu....and there is plenty of great riding out there).
Another Canadian on the path

Hi Andrew. I think Pucci can tell you many stories about bicycle accidents with the citizens of Japan. I have hit pavement a few times in races there but only once out in civilization. I got hit by a car in Canada so I would have to say that anywhere can be dangerous.

I was riding my bike to Fujisawa station to get the train to Odawara one morning. I was wearing street clothes and flip flops, carrying my bike stuff in a back pack and had one hand on the bars. Just as I was passing the train platform (in other words I had an entire audience) my pants got hooked into the chain ring, my flip flop slipped off, my foot slipped over the front of the crank arm, the pedal went into the back of my leg, my bars went 90 degrees to the right, I was upside down in mid air...The next thing I remember I was lying on the ground on top of the back pack when, what seemed like 3-4 seconds later, my other flip flop landed on the other side of the street.

But anyway, to answer your question about where to ride - I used to live in Tama Plaza. On week days, when I couldn't spend more that an hour or so on a ride, I would go to Tama River at 5am and do interval training. Almost nobody there! After 6:30 -7am and that is no place for us roadies. (Except maybe to get out to the mountains). Tama New Town and Kohoku New Town are also good places to ride because the roads are very wide.

Seen more bike v bike/people on tama

Echo previous remarks. Very happy to hear that you were ok, the other person was ok and the police was not called in.

For me, I've seen more mishaps on Tama than any other river trail, and avoid it for mid day rides on the weekends. Too narrow and not designed for multi-use, and the lots of surface changes (saw one accident where rider 3 in a loosely formed pack traveling a reasonable speeds (<30km) misjudged sand on the path, went down, and nearly get cut in two by the bikes behind).

Getting up to reasonable speeds/working hard/clear the mind type riding do not mix well with Tama for me. I use it as gateway to the hills. Unless going to the hills, I find Arakawa better - just have to watch for the soccer/baseball moms.

Got a question to the group re insurance... The little I know, there's no collision insurance for bikes - not covered by auto, home, or other types of insurance... yet you are considered a vehicle. Also no "umbrella type" policies like we have in the states.. I hear this can get pretty ugly if the other person wants to. Is this everyone's understanding as well?
I'm with Chazzer..

the Edogawa and Tonegawa are the best places for roadies.
I've been out on them on the weekend and sometimes I barely see a soul,especially when I get past Misato.

Glad you're OK.
Ugh...Tamagawa! I agree with all the above, its really hairy on the weekends. Best to head elsewhere!

Glad you were ok though.

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