Archive for the ‘ Bicycles ’ Category

>Bikes For Tohoku – Japan Coast to Coast, Nagoya

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This article was sourced through Supporting Japan, an umbrella group in Nagoya that encompasses a number of groups working independently, but enjoying the support of the greater community.  This group, Bikes For Tohoku, grew out of a bicycle group that puts on charity rides around Japan.  Sourcing bikes for people in need seemed the logical next step when the need for them became known. 

The article was written jointly by Mark McBennet, and Tony Torres. 

Mark McBennett
The idea of Bikes For Tohoku, like many ideas these days, grew out of connections made and discussions started in the online world of LinkedIn and Facebook. In one such discussion, the Japan head of major cycling brand responded positively to the idea of donating bikes to people without transport in Tohoku. Japan Coast to Coast is working with them to organize the logistics of getting several hundred new bikes distributed to where they are most needed in the region. Bike companies have a history of giving generously in the aftermath of natural disasters, but their response time can be somewhat delayed by the logistical issues of international shipping and lack of access and information about the worst hit disaster areas. JC2C learned of immediate needs for bikes in evacuation shelters in Tohoku, so it was decided to start addressing this need by putting out a call for Aichi residents to donate their used bikes.
Donors located all across the city and the difficulty for many people of delivering something as bulky as a bicycle meant that the plan had some logistical issues of its own. When the Circles bike shop in downtown Nagoya offered not only temporary storage space but also minor maintenance for donated bikes, things became a little more manageable. And when Mizuno-san, the head of the Shorinji Kempo branch in Higashiura, generously donated 10 new bikes and Iwatsuki-san and his other students organized the collection of over a dozen more, JC2C had its first truckload.
JC2C has always worked closely with Hope International Development Agency, Japan and so it was fitting that synergy between the two made that first shipment work all the more smoothly. HOPE-JP had a new truck they needed delivered to their base in Tohoku, and one of their volunteers joined JC2C’s Tony and myself in collecting the bikes in Higashiura. The nimbleness and strength of Mori-san was a wonder to behold as he squeezed bike after bike into the limited space of a 2-Ton Long truck. The few spaces left between and above the loaded bikes was later filled to the brim with other supplies collected by HOPE-JP before Tony and two volunteers hit the highway and headed north.
Over to Tony…
The drive to the Fukushima storage site was pleasantly uneventful. We encountered little traffic on the Tohoku expressway and suffered no long wait lines at the petro stations up north. The nine-hour drive allowed me, Hope volunteer John Janzen and our long suffering driver Jun, time to contemplate and discuss various philosophical topics. Well, at least it helped make the time pass along faster.
We arrived at the youth hostel where some of our contacts were staying in Fukushima at around 5 A.M.  The bitter cold cut through our skin like a sharp exacto knife and I felt a pang of sympathy for all of the homeless victims currently trying to stay warm in poorly supplied shelters. Shortly after arriving, our driver was asked by the hostel owner to kindly move the truck to make room for another car that needed to leave the parking area. Jun inadvertently drove the back end of the two-ton truck into an adjacent rice field. No damage to the truck or field, but maybe to Jun’s self-esteem.
Later in the morning, a few of the locals came by to offer their help. One even brought a small crane and attempted to lift the back of the truck out of the mud. Fortunately JAF (Japan Automobile Federation) arrived with a tow truck and within minutes we were out of the mud and driving to the Sugo storage facilities with a truckload of donated bicycles. The Sugo site owners (which is actually an auto racing track) supplied us with ample storage space for the bicycles. Before leaving, we inspected each bike to confirm there were no damages in transit. This, our first bike run, helped us understand some of the challenges we will face once we begin trucking larger amounts of bicycles in the future. With proper planning I’m sure we’ll be able to supply the cycling needs of Tohoku tsunami victims in an efficient manner.
In the meantime, the bikes that made that first run were being used within a matter of hours in a couple of locations near Sendai – in Miyatojima, where HOPE-JP has established a base for its relief work; and at an elementary school doubling as a refugee center in Higashi Matsushima, where the call from the folks at International Volunteer Center of Yamagata kick-started this whole initiative.

Around Golden Week, Japan Coast to Coast will be making a trip to Tohoku to assess the current situation and ongoing needs. Based on what we learn on that trip, we may resume asking for bike donations, but it is more likely that we will be focusing our time and energies on helping makers who are looking to donate large shipments of new bikes. We will help them deal with the logistics, which includes assembly and distribution of the bikes to where they are needed.

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