3-Seat Bicycles Offer Wheel Deals For Japanese Mothers

"But you'll look sweet, upon the seat of a bicycle built for... three?" Yes indeed, 3-seat bicycles are not only the real deal, purchasers in Tokyo are GETTING a deal thanks to generous tax incentives.

The 3-seat bikes in question are not sleek, stylish triple-tandem machines - in fact they look somewhat cumbersome with their small outboard "training wheels" or even full-out tricycle formats. They're designed specifically to meet the needs of a mother with two children: one who sits in back just above the rear wheel and a younger toddler or infant who rides up front between the handlebars where a basket normally is mounted.

You might think the weight of a fully loaded 3-seat bicycle would be oppressively heavy for a mother (especially for slim and slightly-built Japanese moms) to propel through Tokyo's busy and sometimes hilly streets, you'd be right. That's why many buyers opt for optional electric motors though adding one can double the cost from an average 40,000 yen ($460) to well over 100,000 yen ($1,150).

Bike buyers are getting some help from municipal governments in the Tokyo metro area, however. One program instituted by Bunkyo Ward seeks to "reduce burdens on parents and guardians," by offering rebates of 30,000 yen ($350) each to the first 100 buyers of 3-seat bicycles.

Other municipal wards have offered similar rebate programs and have expanded their availability due to unexpectedly high demand. "This is just the kind of bike I imagined I would want if I were going to carry my children on it," explained a 26-year-old mother from Bunkyo Ward who purchased a 3-seat bicycle. "The bike is necessary for taking my children to pre-school."

Mothers demand safety as well as convenience, and all 3-seat bikes are required to meet the safety standards of Japan's National Police Agency before they are approved for sale.

Major manufacturers of 3-seat bicycles include Bridgestone Cycle, Maruishi Cycle,  Hodaka and Yamaha Motor Company. Since the start of the subsidy programs over 100,000 3-seat bicycles have been sold, providing a welcome boost to bike makers' bottom lines. (via Mainichi Daily News, Impress Watch and Angelino)