Of all forms of transport the bicycle is the most universal and truly sustainable (next to walking of course). To function it requires only the most rudimentary setup and minimal maintenance along with one key ingredient: a human being. Whatever else is going on – tube strike, oil crisis, recession – the bicycle is always there and more and more people are turning to cycling, as much of a means to an end as for leisure and sport.
If cycling itself is sustainable for us (and it is), both from an economical and environmental point of view, then so should the industries that create and support bicycles and their users. To that end Mamachari Ltd is doing their little bit to support and promote the bicycle as the new (old) green transport and ensuring that our operation has as small a carbon foot print as possible.
Japan has a surplus of used bicycles as there is little or no domestic market for them and bicycles are constantly abandoned at cycle parking stations and illegally parked on the pavement or against railings. These bicycles are removed by the local authorities and then auctioned off to recover costs. Mamachari Bikes buys them by the hundreds and ships them in the largest container available – 40ft x 8ft x 9.6ft – to the UK. This ensures the lowest carbon foot print per unit possible and also keeps them affordable to the end user.
Why bother bringing secondhand bicycles all the way from Japan? Surely we have enough bicycles here to refurbish and an recycle? Although the answer to this question on the face of it is yes, there are many reasons that recycling bikes we already have is a less than perfect model:
Firstly the source of bikes has to be clean. Here in the capital, bicycle theft is bordering on epidemic and even buying from police auctions is no guarantee that the bicycle you are purchasing is not stolen.
Secondly the bicycles need to be suitable for the intended purpose: many bikes that are commonly found in London are not. Most often cited shortcomings are: lack of muduguards, riding position too bent over forwards, nowhere to carry luggage, too many gears.
Next, mechanical condition is quite often overlooked when buying used bikes. A shortsighted approach results in used bicycles being sold on with major technical shortcomings. This is as much a result of the bikes being heavily used and worn out as it is a result of the prevalent culture of ‘I’ll have a go at fixing it myself’. Often with catastrophic results.
Then there’s initial design and build quality of the bicycle. Japan Industrial Standards are some of the highest in the world and bicycles are no exception. Although the majority are made in China, most are made in Japanese owned and run factories with Japanese engineers overseeing the design and quality control of the product from start to finish. European bicycle companies also manufacture in China but they don’t have the same level of control and attention to detail that the Japanese do. And we have to pay heavy additional duty (48.5%) on top of standard import charges on bicycles made in China. Used bicycles thankfully are an exception : )
Which leads us to the final point: affordability. Bicycles should be affordable to everyone and we should not have to sacrifice comfort, practicality, durability or long term reliability to achieve this.