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Japan Notes / How my bike became street-legal in Saitama

The Japan News

A sign on the door of a bike shop shows that it performs safety inspections and provides TS Mark stickers.

By Tom Baker / Japan News Staff Writer All through the winter, my bicycle gathered dust on my apartment’s balcony.

When spring came, I was about to start riding again — until someone told me that Saitama Prefecture, where I live, has a new law requiring all cyclists to have accident insurance.

I checked online and saw it was true. According to a prefectural government pamphlet, the law took effect on April 1, 2018.

The pamphlet listed the names and phone numbers of nine different insurance providers. Was I going to have to call all of them and shop around for the best deal? And how much was this going to cost me? What a headache!

So I did the natural thing: I procrastinated for months. I went about on foot, and my bicycle continued to gather dust. I watched other people on their bikes with envy, wondering how many of them even knew about the new law.

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  • The Japan News

    A TS Mark sticker shows that my bicycle has been inspected and is covered by accident insurance.

Finally, in late June, I decided to bite the bullet. I took another look at the pamphlet. This time, I noticed a paragraph at the very end about something called a TS Mark issued by the Japan Traffic Management Technology Association.

It turns out that if you take your bike to a shop for an inspection, they’ll put a TS Mark sticker on it certifying that it is in good working order. The sticker comes with a year’s worth of insurance, including up to 100 million yen for “liability and damage compensation.”

My tires had gone flat over the winter, so I pumped them up, took my bike out to the street — and then walked it several blocks to the nearest shop.

The inspection took about two minutes. A mechanic squeezed the tires, rang the bell, checked the headlight, checked the brakes, spun the pedals, examined the gears and lubed the chain. The headlight needed new batteries, which he provided. Also checked were the lock, saddle, kickstand and rear reflector, which took two or three seconds each.

The paperwork was blessedly simple. I only needed to write my name, address and phone number. The total cost, including the batteries, was just over 2,000 yen.

Even though I had walked my bike to the shop, I was happy to be able to ride it home.

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