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News Chinese woman pulled over for driving suitcase in Osaka

thomas

Unswerving cyclist
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14 Mar 2002
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A Chinese international student discovered an interesting fact in an unfortunate situation. She was stopped by the police in Fukushima Ward, Osaka, close to her residence in Konohana Ward, for riding an electric suitcase on the sidewalk without a license. She expressed surprise, not realizing that an electric suitcase was considered a vehicle requiring a permit. The woman, in her thirties, has denied the charges related to the incident in March. This incident marks the first of its kind in Japan, and the prefectural police referred her case to the prosecutors for allegedly breaching the Road Traffic Law.


I didn't even know such contraptions existed. :oops:


A Chinese international student's electric suitcase that was confiscated by Osaka prefectural police in Osaka's Fukushima Ward after she was stopped for riding it without a license

Photo credit: Tomoki Miyasaka


Police classified the luggage as a motorized bicycle after noting that it had all the traits of a vehicle. Electric suitcases are intended to be ridden in airports and are typically sold in electronics stores. The woman's suitcase can reach a maximum speed of 13 kph. Electric suitcases do not meet public safety standards and cannot be ridden on a public road.


 
In my last trip around Japan last December I noticed that Chinese tourists very often walk around cities with their suitcases (on wheels). I've seen them pulling their suitcases while visiting temples in Kyoto or even inside Shinjuku Gyōen garden in Tokyo. They're usually in small groups of two or three so I could overhear that they were always Chinese. I found that particularly amusing and strange in a country like Japan where there are so many convenient luggage lockers in every stations and even at tourist information centres.

Anyway it was just a matter of time before they upgraded their suitcases to electric ones.

What surprises me the most in this story is that a driving licence is required for an electric suitcase. AFAIK, they are not required for electric bicycles and electric scooters.

In Europe "microcars" or "ultra-compact mobility vehicles" also do not require a driving license. They are known as 超小型モビリティ in Japan, and after double-checking they apparently require a driving licence in Japan.
 
What surprises me the most in this story is that a driving licence is required for an electric suitcase. AFAIK, they are not required for electric bicycles and electric scooters.
In japan, electric bicycles must be electric assist--meaning that the battery/motor system can only kick in when the rider is pedaling.

If the bike can move under its own power, without pedaling, it is a vehicle--not a bike--and it requires both a driver's license and vehicle registration. A corollary of that is: no throttle allowed. Or perhaps in the case of the electric suitcase, no simple 'go' switch, even if it is very slow.

So electric scooters/kickboards--and of course electric suitcases, which can move on their own--are illegal.
 
In japan, electric bicycles must be electric assist--meaning that the battery/motor system can only kick in when the rider is pedaling.

If the bike can move under its own power, without pedaling, it is a vehicle--not a bike--and it requires both a driver's license and vehicle registration. A corollary of that is: no throttle allowed. Or perhaps in the case of the electric suitcase, no simple 'go' switch, even if it is very slow.

So electric scooters/kickboards--and of course electric suitcases, which can move on their own--are illegal.

Solution: install pedals on your electric suitcase. 🤪
 
A tangent would be brakes. Some cyclists ride a type of bike called a 'fixie'. Fixie comes from fixed, as in fixed gear--no derailleurs or hub shifting at all. Besides the simplicity of no gears, it saves weight, and may even be sort of theft-resistant, since many stolen bikes end up being parted out, and there are fewer of those harvestable parts on a fixie.

Some fixies--the purist type--are direct drive. The rear sprocket does not 'freewheel'--when the rear wheel is turning, that sprocket is turning, and the pedals are necessarily turning at the same time. You cannot 'coast' on this kind of fixie, but it also means that the pedals can be used for braking: stop/slow the pedals going round, and you can stop/slow the bike. But that is rear wheel braking only (much less effective than a front brake), and it requires good riding technique. And some pseudo fixies do have a rear freewheel, so you can coast as on most bikes.

Bikes in japan are required to have brakes, even fixies like I've described. And it's not unusual for fixie riders to get stopped by the police if the police can't see a brake on a bike someone is riding. And heh, no brake(s) means the rider will get ticketed. (Most all fixie riders add a front brake for this reason--to stay legal.)

Anyway, to the point...

I'd bet money that that electric suitcase does not have brakes. So the 'rider' could be ticketed not only for 'driving' an unregistered vehicle--without a license--but also for that vehicle/bike not having proper brakes. (And no bell, no reflectors, etc.)
 
What about electric scooters? They changed the laws in 2023 I believe, where they can be ridden without a license and by teenagers past a certain age? The no brakes thing could still get her of course... but that's quite ridiculous to have charged her for that... After all, I ended up having to ride my bike without a light at night sometimes, and I was once stopped for it but didn't get charged, just warned, which is perfectly fair (especially considering I didn't know it was a law before that moment). It really sucks when you get in trouble for committing a crime you didn't even know was a crime, and Japan seems to be especially known for making these kinds of things into crimes...
 
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