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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rather than hoof it, stranded rush to buy bicycles


Staff writer

Bicycles sold like hotcakes at supermarkets and bike shops after Friday's megaquake shut down train services in the Tokyo metropolitan area, attracting local residents — and people from farther afield — who wanted to cycle home instead of facing the prospect of walking for several hours.

Supermarket chain Aeon Co.'s Shinagawa Seaside outlet in Shinagawa Ward, which sells more bicycles than any other store in Japan, said Saturday it sold 89 bikes in less than three hours the night before, including two pricey electric-powered models. The store usually sells some 200 bikes a week.

"Normally bicycles are lined up in front of our store, but it was the customers who made lines yesterday," store representative Izumi Tsuchiya said Saturday.

Customers looking to buy a bike began arriving at around 5:30 p.m. Friday, forming lines outside the store, he said. The outlet had sold out of new bikes by 8 p.m. and many people were turned away.

"Some of the customers were heading back to Kasukabe (in Saitama Prefecture), Kamakura and Chigasaki (in Kanagawa Prefecture)," said Tsuchiya. Chigasaki is about 60 km south of central Tokyo, or about 15 hours on foot.

Tokyoites who had no choice but to walk home or who were stuck in heavy traffic after a stressful day watched with envy as bike riders swooshed by.

Olympic Corp.'s Aoyama branch, another supermarket chain in Minato Ward, said it sold about ¥3 million worth of bicycles Friday — more than 100 bikes.

"Most of the customers bought bikes costing around ¥20,000 to ¥30,000, but we also sold three or four electric bicycles, which cost about ¥100,000," shop official Tatsuya Kawamura said.

The store usually sells about five bikes on an average weekday.

Maenami Cycle, a small shop in Shinjuku Ward, also saw a jump in sales as people desperate to get back home elected to pedal.

"If the person was living not too far out, I copied their IDs and just rented them the bikes," said Satoru Maenami, a store official. "But I had to ask people living in Saitama to buy them."



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