Safety first, or the oddity of bike lights in recent anime

December 16, 2016

I'm a cyclist, so I'm attuned to little nuances and oddities of how bikes are shown in shows. The one I've been noticing recently is how it seems to have become common, maybe even universal, to show road bikes with bicycle lights on their handlebars. This comes up quite visibly in Long Riders!, where any number of road bikes clearly show them, but it's not the only recent case I remember. Regalia - The Three Sacred Stars had a scene with a road bike in the background, and it too had been carefully depicted with a light.

(Road bikes are the go-fast kind with drop handlebars.)

There's two reasons that this is odd to me. First, road bikes are stereotypically minimal; the people who ride them don't have much truck with things like fenders in case of rain or ways to carry much on the bike. The second is simply that it's extra work for the animators and CG modelers (in the case of Long Riders!); more stuff on a bike is more stuff to draw and more time. Yet the shows still put lights on. I can only assume that having lights on your handlebars on road bikes is so prevalent in Japan that either it would look wrong to not have them or the animators just 'know' that that's part of how you depict bikes.

(I read the blog of someone who does a bunch of cycling in Japan, along with photography, and normally I'd check it to see if his photos of real world Japanese cyclists and their bikes shows them with headlights. Unfortunately his blog seems to be unavailable right now.)

In doing some research I discovered that Japan not only has a legal requirement for front lights (possibly only 'after dark', possibly in general) but that apparently it's actively enforced by the police (cf, and, and). If it's only an after-dark legal requirement, that doesn't entirely explain things, because many cyclists only plan on riding in daylight. Having good lights on during the day is starting to become more common in North America, on the grounds that it makes you more visible to cars and modern bike lights are pretty small and convenient (they're not inexpensive, but people who buy expensive road bikes generally don't worry about that). Maybe daytime lights have taken root in Japan more thoroughly than they have over here.

(In North America you're often doing well if people riding at night have lights and have them on. Even if it's a legal requirement, it's often not actively enforced; the police are too busy with other things.)

As a side note, I've been skimming bits of Long Riders! for reasons beyond the scope of this entry, and it was interesting to discover that the part of the second episode where one character takes her regular bike on the train all packed up in a giant bag is apparently an actual requirement for taking your bike on trains (from the bottom of this), not just politeness and so on.

PS: Long Riders! turns out to have a crazy level of attention to detail that almost no one is going to notice.

(This is another of my 12 days of anime posts.)

Written on 16 December 2016.
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Last modified: Fri Dec 16 23:51:27 2016
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