Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Opportunities for Wisconsin companies to participate in the trend

Based on the Japanese attitude favoring healthy living and environmental awareness, as well as the events of the 2011 Japan earthquake, awareness of cycling as an effective means of transport is growing. More people are using bicycles, and the number of bicycles owned in Japan is on the rise. That total was 71.9 million in 2014, a number approaching that for automobile ownership, which sits at 76.7 million.

With bicycles enjoying renewed appeal, enhancing their functions for various uses could expand their use further, particularly in public transportation and tourism contexts. The number of tourists visiting from overseas has been rising in recent years, and with the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, further use of bicycles by tourists is expected.

In terms of tourism use, one seldom sees people riding tandem bicycles; each region has regulations on the use of tandem bicycles on public roads, and their use is largely restricted. These restrictions, however, are gradually being eased, and the prefecture of Kyoto authorized their use on public roads in late 2015. This easing of regulations suggests an opportunity for increased penetration of bicycles as a means of transit.

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaching, installing bicycles at hotels within Tokyo is another potential consideration. This would allow visitors traveling to the Olympic stadium to avoid traffic jams and reach the venue smoothly. In addition, this would allow touring the narrow back streets of Tokyo in a convenient fashion. While tandem bicycles are currently not allowed for use in Tokyo, tandem tricycles are authorized.

One effective way to make use of these burgeoning opportunities would be to add value through developments in electric power assistance and "intelligent" functions, such as anti-theft and threat-detection systems, thereby offering consumers an "evolved" form of bicycle. In addition to individual ownership, building systems to provide bicycles for rental and leasing would further increase demand. Going forward, the Japanese market for bicycles appears poised to continue growing.