crime

7-month-old baby killed after mother knocked off bicycle by car

97 Comments

A 7-month-old baby boy, strapped in a baby carrier on his mother's back, was killed after a car hit the bicycle the woman was riding on, knocking them to the sidewalk, in Tokyo on Friday.

Police arrested the driver of the car, a 25-year-old woman, on a charge of reckless driving resulting in death.

According to police, the incident occurred at around 10 a.m. in Kokubunji, Tokyo, Fuji TV reported. Police said Fumie Yamada, 33, was riding her bike, with the baby in a carrier on her back. As she crossed the street in between cars waiting at the traffic lights, she was hit by a car coming from the left. The impact knocked Yamada off her bike.

Police said the baby sustained a head injury. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. The mother suffered a light injury.

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97 Comments
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Sad. Was the baby wearing head protection like a helmet?

-7 ( +7 / -14 )

There are no winners with stories like these. Both women will have severe trauma, and a life is gone, and the police may be touted as heroes putting the "bad guy" away. While my limited knowledge of this means the person driving is always at fault (unless you're a foreigner, then it's always your fault), I'd hope we can at least determine if the person driving truly was doing all required by law.

13 ( +21 / -8 )

It sounds like the mother was the reckless driver, despite the motorist being arrested.

"As she crossed the street in between cars waiting at the traffic lights, she was hit by a car coming from the left."

Well, that sounds like really dangerous, if not illegal, behavior to me. This past week I've seen a couple of daredevil cyclist moms racing down narrow sidewalks, etc. that left me shaking my head.

15 ( +23 / -8 )

It's very sad that a baby died in this accident but it's an absolute disgrace that the driver of the car was arrested for reckless driving as, in my opinion, she had done nothing wrong. The blame for this accident lies squarely with the cyclist. She (the cyclist) should not have been crossing the street between stationary cars when she did not have a clear view of the road or oncoming traffic. Instead, she should have used a designated crossing or waited until she had a clear view of both sides of the road and any oncoming traffic. However, she was too lazy to find a crossing and too impatient to wait a few minutes. In addition, the baby should have been in a child seat, which would have provide at least a little protection to the child rather than being strapped to the back of the mother. I'm shocked at how a mother could pay such little regard to the safety of her newborn child and how the police could arrest a motorist, who was following the rules of the road and was just, unfortunately, in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Japanese Authorities seriously need to spend some time and money on educating the millions of cyclists, most of whom have no regard for pedestrians, motorists or the rules of the road, how to ride their bikes correctly and safely!!

20 ( +30 / -10 )

Very sad this baby's life has ended far too soon. Does anybody agree with me that Japanese are very selfish drivers? They hardly ever stop at zebra crossings and if you are walking across one they swerve around you.

9 ( +17 / -8 )

This news is incomplete...

It looks like the cause must be the negligence of the bicycle rider. One side cars were piled up and other side was moving .. Crossing the road in between piled up cars in one side, when the other side was moving....where the bicycle jumped in front of a moving car......Now the driver has to suffer !!! This is what I understood reading yahoo.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

Riding a bike whilst carrying a baby in a baby carrier is incredibly dangerous and something that I see quite often here in Japan. It is not recommended to carry a baby in a proper bicycle baby seat until they are at least one year old, so how can it be o.k to be carried on the back with no protection whatsoever? In my option, this should be made illegal if it is not already.

14 ( +17 / -3 )

I agree with Mary's comment about Zebra crossings / crosswalks and if this accident had occurred at a crossing then , perhaps, I could have legitimately been blamed on the driver. However, it did not occur at a crossing - the cyclist was crossing the road between stationary cars.....

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Unlucky driver. The bicycle rider killed her baby .. and the driver got arrested.

I had a similar situation while driving in Japan. Luckily escaped from accident. I can really figure out the situation.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

It sounds like the mother was the reckless driver, despite the motorist being arrested

From a Western perspective, yes it does.

A Japanese cyclist, as jyakusha, (weaker party) has near carte blanche to behave as they please, as the onus for keeping them safe is entirely on larger vehicles.

Confucianism on asphalt.

22 ( +25 / -3 )

The onus in Japanese law is on the bigger vehicle to avoid accidents. Negligence from the victim isn't really an excuse as the law expects you to anticipate such negligence. RIP little one, your mother shouldn'T have had you on her back while riding a bike. That was illegal as well. No way she'll be arrested for it though, grief is her punishment.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

The only way the driver could have avoided being involved in that accident would have to not to have been on the road in the first place. Are we all supposed to just stay at home because there's a possibility we might be involved in an accident with a reckless, impatient cyclist? Utter rubbish!!

8 ( +16 / -8 )

@ Mary Hinge

You have never been South East Asia, Africa, South America, or eastern europe. In the middle east driver would gun their motors and fly by you at crossings missing you by inches. Japan is a cake walk.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Sad story RIP little one.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I always wondered why mums ride with infants on bicycles on those narrow streets. Sometimes 2-3 infants or toddlers all on 1 bicycle. That's just insane.

In the US mums have SUV's. The kids are secure in strapped in child seats.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

Three lives ruined. All for the sake of the cyclist being careless on the roads.

I will never understand how so many people here can be so reckless with their own child's safety. It's both heartbreaking and infuriating.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

I always wondered why mums ride with infants on bicycles on those narrow streets. Sometimes 2-3 infants or toddlers all on 1 bicycle. That's just insane.

Why is it insane? Are they being killed in mass numbers? I've never seen any stats on this.

-12 ( +4 / -16 )

Why is it insane? Are they being killed in mass numbers? I've never seen any stats on this.

Its insane because infants, as young as 7 months, are just so tiny and fragile. And the streets here are just waaaay too narrow. This is why "I" think its insane. I've never seen stats on this neither, just making an observation.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

"From a Western perspective, yes it does."

Yeah, right. I've been to several "Confucian" influenced Asian countries where the complete opposite is the norm. Motorists are extremely aggressive toward "the little people," beeping, gunning their engines and even accelerating right toward pedestrians crossing on green lights in order to get them to make a path. Pedestrians and cyclists have no right-away whatsoever. Even on some sidewalks in Vietnam, I've had motorbikes race at me beeping.

"Confucianism" doesn't enter in to it.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The mother on the bicycle was not in a cross walk or intersection when crossing the road. She suddenly appeared behind a stopped car in the opposite lane and road right out in front of the woman's car. In my opinion, the 25 y/o woman that was arrested for reckless driving is also a victim. Now, she's going to have to live with this for the rest of her life. If this were a JR train instead of a woman driving a car, the mother on the bicycle would be sued...

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Its insane because infants, as young as 7 months, are just so tiny and fragile. And the streets here are just waaaay too narrow. This is why "I" think its insane.

And yet, thousands of mothers do it without incident every day.

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

RIP to the child. Unfortunately I have seen women on a bike with 2 children, while using an umbrella and a cellphone. Multitasking can really get someone killed. After driving for many hours on the highway of Japan, I've noticed motorists are very courteous and polite. The actions that pedestrians take are very risky. I always was on the lookout for children and people on bikes that would dart out in the middle of the street without looking. The laws are 100% against the motorists regardless of the situation.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Of course, condolences to the family. I should say, families.

Regular readers of this site have often seen articles stressing Cycling Safety and similar crackdowns on reckless riding.

The mother crossed between cars, not at an intersection, and the 25 year old driver is to be blame? I'm sorry, I simply do not get that.

Any driver, any of us, could have easily been arrested for what amounts to negligence by the mother.

Also: I'm an avid cyclist, obeying all traffic regulations, but far and away the most dangerous riders I've encountered have been mothers with children. Anecdotal, sure, but certainly true for me.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The only way the driver could have avoided being involved in that accident would have to not to have been on the road in the first place. Are we all supposed to just stay at home because there's a possibility we might be involved in an accident with a reckless, impatient cyclist? Utter rubbish!!

This is why there are many hit-and-run accidents in Japan. Any accident resulting in an injury is considered a crime, and someone must be charged, even in situations were a pedestrian or cyclist has crossed in dangerous places, or even against a red light. Rather than face the inevitable arrest, and being named in newspapers around the country, many will simply panic and run away.

An interesting thing that many people may not know is that the strict driving rules, expensive licensing, registering, road tolls, and expense of owning a car were created simply to discourage people from driving, rather than increase public safety. In those days, the state owned the national railroad, and keeping people out of cars meant that had to rely more on trains.

In other countries, when one person hurts another person unexpectedly and unintentionally, it is called an "accident". Here in Japan, if a drunk on a bicycle crashes into your car while you are stopped at a red light, and is seriously injured, you will be considered partially responsible for the accident. You will end up paying for at least part of his treatment. It is illogical and unfair, but then again, many laws are.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Regardless of the circumstances of the accident, if the baby was wearing a helmet it would not have sustained head injuries. Bicycle helmets were made mandatory for ALL children under 13 years old nearly ten years ago, not that anyone would notice. I think it's pretty irresponsible on the mother's part in this indcident. Yeah, I grew up in the no helmet generation and survived although, a few of friends didn't. I would see maybe one kid in a hundred wearing a bicycle helmet when in a 'mama chari' bicycle and much fewer kids wearing helmets when riding their bikes solo. Why make a law if you don't enforce it? It's just stupid! I'm sure this mother is now thinking about what the outcome of this accident would have been if the baby was wearing a helmet, and was in a child seat and not strapped to her back. An 8month old kid is old enough to go a baby seat on a bike. This was a totally preventable death!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

That breaks my heart as my son is also just turning 7 months old. my heart goes out to the family.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Mother's the guilty one here, sorry. Crossing the street between cars waiting for the light instead of at a crosswalk? And I'm guessing no helmet for the kid. She's learned the hard way why cycling rules exist, and unfortunately the young driver will suffer as well. Tragedy all around, but entirely avoidable. The mother should be charged as well.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

@kagoshima126

No helmets available for that age.

@JeffLee et. al.

It does not say if she was in a crosswalk or not. There's no mention of the mother having a green "WALK" light either. Without this information (typical detail-less reporting) everything is pure speculation.

@Wc626

In the US mums have SUV's. The kids are secure in strapped in child seats.

Even if the kids are in a vehicle here, the odds are low they're strapped in seats. The number of times I've seen unrestrained or improperly restrained kids is appalling. It’s the law, but we all know how effective laws are. And don’t get me started on law enforcement!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I agree that it's the mom's fault. But in the battle of "responsibility" in Japan, the larger vehicle (bike/pedestrian, car/bike, truck/car) usually loses.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

According to the tv news the mother was weaving through the stopped cars and seems to have failed to check no one was coming from the other direction.

Suddenly she appeared between cars and was struck - not so severely. The baby hit it's head when the mother came off the bike. The mother was basically uninjured.

If these are the facts then arresting the driver is lame beyond reasoning and serves no purpose in this tragedy - at all.

Sometimes the cops here just gotta throw common sense to the winds - because the book / senior says so.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

The baby pays the price for his mother's stupidity. I once saw a man riding his bicycle on a road covered with snow. He was holding a small child with one arm and trying to steer his bike with the other. Astonishing.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

“It’s not about crashes at all, it’s about the potential for repeated mild trauma to the brain because of bumps associated with everyday road conditions.” — Dr. Tord Alden, Children’s Memorial Hospital (Chicago)

Dr. Tord Alden of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He explained that having infants wear a bicycle helmet when they are reclined in an infant seat pushes the head forward, flexing the neck and tweaking the spine out of alignment, which puts the baby at risk for cervical trauma and even airway blockage in extreme cases.

it’s not a good idea to take infants by bike until at least nine months old.

Source: >http://bikeportland.org/2009/08/24/carrying-your-infant-by-bike-how-young-is-too-young-22374<

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The bicyclist was breaking the law, why was the driver arrested?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The mother darted out into traffic not allowing the driver any time to react. My sympathy goes out to the innocent child that was killer due to the mothers arrogant actions. This 25 year old driver not must live the rest of her life with this in her mind. Parents: PLEASE be more responsible riding bicycles with kids.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The car has no dents, just some scratches on the corner. She must have tried to stop as best she could. I'm guessing the mother tried to outrun the car because the rear fender of the bike is hardly damaged as well, falling onto the sidewalk. It was a two lane road so she couldn't have been "weaving" between traffic, unless she was attempting to weave through the oncoming traffic.

Terrible news, but the mother is 100% at fault. I feel bad for the 25 year old. Some kind of campaign to help her would be nice, but I think the police will drop her charges anyway.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Peter Qinghai: "It does not say if she was in a crosswalk or not."

It said she was crossing the road BETWEEN CARS WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO CHANGE. So, no, it is not speculation at all, unless YOU are speculating that the cars had overrun the white lines and were blocking the crosswalk. I agree with your latter comments about the law and kids being strapped in.

Oh, and yes, Peter, there are helmets for infants. You can even find some on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.jp/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=%E3%83%99%E3%83%93%E3%83%BC%E3%83%98%E3%83%AB%E3%83%A1%E3%83%83%E3%83%88&tag=yahhyd-22&index=baby&jp-ad-ap=0&hvadid=99522605768&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_1n9yziibmd_b

Again, 100% the fault of the mother if she was indeed going between parked cars to cross the road. No helmet, illegal crossing, and who knows if she was committing other infringements or not. The other car probably didn't even see her coming, but because of the stupid laws here the larger vehicle takes the lion's share, if not all, of the blame. While I know full well the mother will suffer because of her negligence and rush to do whatever she was doing instead of being safe, it should still be her charged with negligent driving resulting in death. The young woman should not be charged with reckless driving because she did nothing wrong.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

"Confucianism" doesn't enter in to it.

Indeed. "Confucianism" is one of those cliches that many foreigners and some Japanese like to use when they cannot be bothered to think through the issues. All of the allegedly "Confucian" societies in East Asia are very different at street level and in terms of common behavioral patterns.

An interesting thing that many people may not know is that the strict driving rules, expensive licensing, registering, road tolls, and expense of owning a car were created simply to discourage people from driving, rather than increase public safety. In those days, the state owned the national railroad, and keeping people out of cars meant that had to rely more on trains.

Possibly, but I've not previously read this. Japan initially had rather lax vehicular laws and with motorization there were so many traffic fatalities that the newspapers used the term 交通戦争 that I would translate as vehicular war. The first tightening came in conjunction with the 1964 Olympics followed by another tightening in the 80s. When I first came to Japan in 1971, people were still talking about maniac "kamikaze taxis" but the police had already clamped down in a big way.

In urban areas the biggest barrier to owning a car is probably that you have to have proof that you have a parking place.

https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%BA%A4%E9%80%9A%E6%88%A6%E4%BA%89

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Jay-walking is so incredibly rare in Japan and you can even be cautioned by the police for doing it. However, the minute a Japanese person gets on a bike, they throw all caution and common sense to the wind and ride like utter maniacs, often riding the wrong way up busy roads, weaving between traffic, failing to stop before riding across a road, using their cellphones, holding an umbrella and ringing their bells loudly at pedestrians who, god forbid, try to walk along the pavement (sidewalk).

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I did a lot of research before taking my toddler on a bike (in a child seat with a helmet). All the sources I found advised to wait until the child is at least one year old so they are old enough to cope with the bumps of being in a seat child.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is because of stories like this, that I stopped driving a car in Japan many years ago. You have to be an owl, with your head on a swivel, to see all the possible idiots on foot and bicycles coming into the street, where they have no business being. The concept of "right-of-way" is non-existent here.

The driver of the car ALWAYS gets the blame.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A really sad incident. Sad for the loss of a young baby, sad for the mother but as I see it, particularly sad for the driver who was arrested for so-called 'reckless driving'. Was she speeding ? Approaching traffic lights, probably not. Why not also (or perhaps, only) arrest the mother for crossing a road between cars at a non-designated crossing zone. Was she too dumb and lazy to walk down to the zebra crossing ? Somebody mentioned that almost nobody stops for you here in Japan at a zebra crossing without traffic lights. Untrue ! 'Almost nobody' should be corrected to 'nobody at all' with the exception of police cars, buses on occasions and lorries on rare occasions - and myself ! But I often get honked at for stopping and before I do stop, I make sure that the vehicle behind is a safe distance away from me. Even then, cars coming in the opposite direction fail to do as I do so I get honked at again. Not that I care, I am doing the right thing and it's lucky that I am able to stand my ground without getting out of my own car and giving the driver behind a punch in the face ! On closing, the driver should at least be put into serious consideration and given a fair trial in a country where the driver is almost always in the wrong no matter the given situation.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Please remember that as a car driver you have NEVER the Right of Way in front of cyclists. So yeah, the driver is at fault.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

IT does not matter "who is at fault". Accidents happen. May both women find peace.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The only thing that surprises me about this article is that we don't read news like this daily.

In my years in Japan, I saw moms driving with kids in a front and back carrier, on their backs, and rarely with helmets on. All it takes is for her to lose balance and just have the bike fall over -- that would be enough of an impact to kill a child if their head hits pavement.

Given how much of a nanny state Japan is, with "danger" signs all over the place, that they let this practice continue means that the J-government is partially to blame for this child's tragic death.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Everyone in the comments here is piling blame on the mother, but you cannot draw any definitive conclusions about who is at fault based on what the article says. It is a very vaguely worded description that could mean the mother was crossing with a green light and had to pass between cars because (as drivers often do here) some of them had stopped either on the crosswalk or past it, leaving her with no choice.

This is speculation, but is just as plausible as all the theories seeking to exonerate the driver despite knowing next to nothing about what actually happened.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Jay walking is not at all rare in Japan, NOT AT ALL. We may not see it much down town when people are walking with or near coworkers, but at any given moment on my short walk along route 6 to the train station I can count over a dozen in view at a time within two or three blocks. And many of these are parents carrying or with young children. Many don't even have enough sense to even look before stepping into the street. My own spouse and in laws do all the time. Ever see those tall thin white boards asking for information about a fatal accident almond the street? No? Look harder, they be there, and there and over there.

The one accident I had was caused by two Jay walkers who darted out in front of the car in front of me causing the driver to hit his breaks just as I realized mine.

As a motorist, it burns me up that it is I you will go to jail if I hit one of the dozens I see every day who walk between cars stuck in traffic and step out right in front of me without looking, or riding their bikes at night, without any lights, riding in the wrong direction, run the red light while listening to headphones and texting on their "smart" phones. Thank God I saw enough of this as a pedestrian in Japan before getting my DL so that I know to always be on the lookout. But on the lookout out or not, if the timing is just so, there is nothing the motorist can do. Except perhaps hit and run and pray they don't catch you,

This is not to say that motorist are any better, as we all should also know well.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

rainyday, "but you cannot draw any definitive conclusions about who is at fault based on what the article says."

That's true, but actually many of the comments here are not speculation because some of us do not rely only on JT articles. Those of us who live here and are fluent in Japanese have access to TV news, print and online newspapers, etc. These usually give more detail, as well as being a day or more ahead of JT.

Based on those sources, crosswalks or zebra crossings are irrelevant to this case. The mother was attempting to cross in the middle of a block and there was no crossing at that spot. She was not weaving through moving traffic but through cars that were stopped waiting for a red light to change. She popped out suddenly from between those cars in front of the oncoming car. Having her baby strapped onto her back was not illegal in that locale. (This varies depending on the local laws.)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm usually pro-cyclist, but seeing the video on the news squarely points the blame at the mother. https://twitter.com/Thanatos0414/status/728513021929119745/video/1

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Philip Ault: "Jay-walking is so incredibly rare in Japan and you can even be cautioned by the police for doing it."

You obviously haven't been here long. I've never seen more j-walking in any other country that has road signals in my life, and what's worse it that most people don't look both ways before they do it -- the just start crossing the street without any warning. Some avoid it, granted, because cars simply won't stop; especially taxis.

rainy day: "Everyone in the comments here is piling blame on the mother, but you cannot draw any definitive conclusions about who is at fault based on what the article says. It is a very vaguely worded description that could mean the mother was crossing with a green light and had to pass between cars because (as drivers often do here) some of them had stopped either on the crosswalk or past it, leaving her with no choice."

It has been proven that she was crossing between cars waiting for the line in the middle of a block, not at a crosswalk illegally having crossed the white line or over a zebra crossing. So so much for that, eh? Will you blame the mother now? or still say we are wrong for pointing out what we know is fact?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Smith, don't forget you live in Osaka.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

bicultural: "Smith, don't forget you live in Osaka."

Meaning, what exactly? That j-walking is worse? Could very well be. Would still go against the comment that "J-walking is so incredibly rare in Japan", being that Osaka is in Japan and all. Or were you referring to the bad driving?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Does anybody agree with me that Japanese are very selfish drivers? They hardly ever stop at zebra crossings and if you are walking across one they swerve around you

Actually I find J drivers very conservative behind the wheel.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Mary Hinge. I've driven in the best and worst of countries and by far japanese drivers are the most organized and considerate when it comes to driving. The majority of them follow the rules, there's always those scooter gang you see running around sometimes.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

IT does not matter "who is at fault"

Mmm actually yes, it does. That's why everyone's so pissed about the news. Because an innocent person might be sitting in jail right now.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

this is how the tv discribed it, mother is to blame !!

http://togetter.com/li/971821

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Smithinjapan, I'll have you know that I've been here for 13 years. I have rarely seen Japanese jay-walking. It is usually the foreigners that do it as we are more used to doing it in our home countries. I have seen people cautioned by the police for doing it. Anyway, that wasn't my main point. What I was getting at was that the normally very law and rule abiding Japanese turn into very different people once the get on a bike!!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

As she crossed the street in between cars waiting at the traffic lights,

And they arrested the car driver, typical Japanese logic

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Thanks to the links to the Japanese news coverage B2DB and Fatboy. The reports certainly explain the situation better than the sparse coverage here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you ever had children, I would never hold child less than a year old on a bike. Maybe 2 2.5 even. Any bump and fall and kid is killed. And I am quite bold for cycling. Reason being is that just the weight of bike and of your body falling itself on a baby (that is what it is!) Will just physically crush him. That is without even considering the absence of helmet. Question yourself: would you run with baby in hands? No. People are so stupid. And I understand the hit and run culture, unfortunately as driver is 100% not guilty.

For the atory, I had been riding wildly a bike in France for few years during a time in a city that is promoting riding and never saw any riders bumped one into another. In Japan, it is quite common to see some with total inability to make rational decision and end up bumping into other bicycle or car...in particular at low speed!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Probably had three bags of groceries hanging from the handlebars too. Those cycle moms think they own the streets. She should be in jail.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Looking at Japanese news coverage, looks like the only driver's crime is... to exist. I have no doubt this case will participate to the 99% conviction rate.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

have no doubt this case will participate to the 99% conviction rate.

Then you don't know the Japanese system very well. They will release her without indictment (不起訴).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree that it's the mom's fault. But in the battle of "responsibility" in Japan, the larger vehicle (bike/pedestrian, car/bike, truck/car) usually loses.

Yep, in Japan you can even be arrested for hitting someone running across the expressway.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am not boasting about my own country, but here in Singapore, bicycles can always choose to ride on the sidewalks/pedestrian pavement instead of on the roads. You will never find mothers with children riding on roads.

Doesn't Japan even have designated cycling lanes? I will shudder to ride my bicycle on roads with a ten wheeler zooming past me by just mere inches...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

here in Singapore, bicycles can always choose to ride on the sidewalks/pedestrian pavement instead of on the roads.

As they can in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Then you don't know the Japanese system very well. They will release her without indictment (不起訴).

This is almost certainly true in this case. Being arrested does not mean your case will even be sent to the prosecutors. It's also very unlikely the driver is 'rotting in jail' as another poster said.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You obviously haven't been here long. I've never seen more j-walking in any other country that has road signals in my life

I've been here long, and I've never seen more waiting at red lights even when no cars are coming than in any other country that has road signals in my life.

And looking at the other side of it, I can't disagree with your statement, since it's your own personal observance, but I disagree with the idea that your observance is in line with the reality of how things are in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Philip Ault

Are you serious? Where do you live? I see j walking each and every day in and around Tokyo. Each and every day. It is not even ten am as I type this and I have already seen four people j walking across route six, a four lane national road with the speed limit of 50km on which every one drives between 70km and 80km, and countless others across the kyumitokaido that connects to it. The first pair was a father and very young daughter who goes to my child's school. The father had his daughter's hand in one hand and his child's school futon in the other and just stepped into the street ahead of me without looking in either direction.

The rotary I front of my station is filled with j walkers and the cops just stand and stare at them. The accidents I have seen there between zombie peds and cars has resulted in the cops yelling at the motorist, not the idiot jwalker.

@Stranerland

"here in Singapore, bicycles can always choose to ride on the sidewalks/pedestrian pavement instead of on the roads. As they can in Japan."

No they can not. It is against the law to ride your bike on the side walk except where it is posted that it is allowed. If you have a motor vehicle drivers license, then you will have points against it for doing so. That's according to the driver's license facility at which I last renewed my DL and media reports from several years ago when they cracked down against riding bicycles on the sidewalk. However, recent enforcement of this law seems to have gone the way of enforcement of other traffic laws, lax.

@Jason Santana

Even as a pedestrian only, I quickly learned that the lines one the road were mere suggestions at best. It is so rare for anyone to stop at the crosswalk in front of my house that is clearly marked with both unlit and lit signs that I have started a tally of how many times drivers have stopped for my child and I as we walk to and from daycare. So far this year only 2 drivers have stopped for us. We have had very close calls by drivers almost hitting us they illegally pass the stopped city bus just before the cross walk and even by the bus itself. The bus was stopped as we entered the crosswalk and the bus driver just started ahead without even looking ahead to see if anyone was in the cross walk or not. Inches away Inches from being run over in the crosswalk by the city bus and many times by cars.

To all, if you are walking around any population center in Japan believing that motorists are even mentally awake, eventually you are going to get hit. If you are driving and not on constant guard against motorists watching tv, playing with their smart phone, reading their manga or whatever, you are going to find yourself in an accident. If you are a motorist and not constantly on guard for zombies stepping out in front of you from between stationary vehicles or cyclist flying in front of you from out of no where, you are going to hit someone.

Judging from many comments here, it seems that many non JNs here are no more observant than the young mother in the story who caused her child's death.

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Sad news, but it seems the mother was entirely to blame for her decision to move out into traffic between parked cars.

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No they can not. It is against the law to ride your bike on the side walk except where it is posted that it is allowed.

Nope. There are a number of reasons why one can ride on the sidewalk:

1) There is a sign saying that the sidewalk is also for bikes.

2) They are under 13 years old, or over 70.

3) They have a physical disability.

4) It would not be safe to ride on the road. This last one is broken down further as:

-- There are lots of cars parked on the road, and it's difficult to pass them on the right

-- There are lots of cars driving on the road, and the road is narrow

-- There are cars honking/tailgating/being aggressive towards the cyclist

Link: http://law.jablaw.org/sw_swtc

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@Strsngerland

The list of exceptions to the law does not equate to "bicycles can always choose to ride on the sidewalks/pedestrian pavement instead of the road."

Bike riders in Japan can not ALWAYS choose to ride on sidewalks. They con do so conditionally, but not always.

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The animated reconstruction the tv news is showing is pretty damning for the mother on the bicycle. Not only did she cross the road in a very reckless manner, her bicycle looked hardly damaged, to the extent where it appears that the force that killed the baby boy came from her falling off the bike, not from the car hitting her especially hard. This means that the baby (seven months is more of a "baby" than a "child") was in a precarious state to begin with, and could have been seriously injured by any minor happening, such as her hitting a pothole, kerb, or tyre stopper.

Apparently it is legal to ride in Tokyo with a baby strapped to the body in a so-called "dakko himo" baby carrier. Given that such baby carriers range from very loose slings to the sturdy Ergo/Baby Bjorn type carriers, this strikes me as pretty irresponsible. Some of them hold the baby by gravity alone with no strapping, so the child with fall out if you go horizontal. Unlike child bike seats, they are not designed with any thought to bicycle accidents.

Rules about babies on bicycles vary by country to country, but most seem to agree that 7 months is too early. The skull has barely developed by then, and going up and down pavements etc. is going to shake the child a lot, which in itself is a risk to the child's brain. The difference between a 7 month baby and a 1 year old who can probably stand and may even walk is huge. A one year old is much more solid.

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this story must be written incorrectly or else i'm misreading it. how could the driver be arrested if the mom was crossing the road in between cars waiting at a stop light. this to me means that the cyclist wasn't at a crosswalk, therefore she was making an illegal crossing.

and here we go again with the "reckless" japanese mothers trope. kids here must be dying by the boatload.

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The saddening part is, nobody was to blame but entirely herself. One reckless judgment can result to a tragic event. I often remind myself when I tend to speed on the road, is that I can always take an hour leave when I'm late for work but endangering myself and other people will take a longer time to heal.

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Pretty normal behaviour walking into oncoming traffic without looking....i live in mejiro and regularly see people crossing mejirodori without glancing left or right and by the grace of god havent seen anybody killed yet. the other day i saw a guy riding through minor intersection looking upwards at the sky....ive had an idiot coming round a corner on wrong side of road and when he saw me in his path flicked his handlebars and crashed heavily into the ground/ i kept going of course!! Its about time the laws were changed here to not criminalize drivers for a genuine accident when person driving is being responsible FFS!! I also cross the street as in this accident but ALWAYS look for oncoming traffic first....sense of self preservation is non existent here!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Bike riders in Japan can not ALWAYS choose to ride on sidewalks. They con do so conditionally, but not always.

Which does not equate to "It is against the law to ride your bike on the side walk except where it is posted that it is allowed."

this story must be written incorrectly or else i'm misreading it. how could the driver be arrested if the mom was crossing the road in between cars waiting at a stop light.

In fatal accidents, the driver is always arrested. That doesn't mean they are always charged/indicted though.

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Bike riders in Japan can not ALWAYS choose to ride on sidewalks. They con do so conditionally, but not always.

Which does not equate to "It is against the law to ride your bike on the side walk except where it is posted that it is allowed."

The base line is that it IS illegal to ride on the sidewalk. You list exceptions to the base line and claim that it is tha same as in Singapoer where there is no law to be exempted from.

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Signs would not be needed if the base line was not that it is illegal to ride on them.

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Because they have been exempted from the base line.

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Yes. Meaning it's legal.

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Sidewalks that have a width more than 3 metres(used to be 2 metres) can be cycled on but at a walking pace.

Base rule is all bicycles need to ride on the left side of the road(with the flow), except when there is a bicycle-lane or otherwise indicated. Persons under 13 and above 70 are exempted. Top speed should be 20km/h.

Wait till the introduce the new rules for Bicycle Helmets, even for Adults and teens soon.

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Strangerland,

You are arguing one small point and ignoring the whole. It is not "always" legal to ride on the sidewalk in Japan as it is in Singapore.

But back to your point, yes it is legal but by way of exemption. The base line remains unchanged. It is illegal to ride on the sidewalk unless certain exemptions can be applied.

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It is not "always" legal to ride on the sidewalk in Japan as it is in Singapore.

I'll concede that. But it's legal to ride on the sidewalk in any situation where you would need to.

The base line remains unchanged. It is illegal to ride on the sidewalk unless certain exemptions can be applied.

At which point it becomes legal.

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Something very similar happened to me. I was riding my Harley Davidson motorcycle down the road and an 81 year old man on a very small bicycle suddenly came out between cars stopped in traffic on the other side of the road, he was trying to cross the street right in front of oncoming traffic. there was no way for me to stop in time. In that short amount of time I managed to hit his back tire instead of him, he spun around, but this cause me to lay down my bike and I crashed on my right side and had severe bruising. My bike was damaged significantly as well. The old man stood up and was completely uninjured. When the police came he tried to lie to them and say he was in the crosswalk but the police could tell where my bike went down and at least on that point, they took my side. They also tried to get me to admit I could have been driving more safely (how?) and sign a paper but I refused to do that. Regardless of all of that, because I was on the larger vehicle it was ruled 80 my fault, 20 percent his fault. The reality was it was probably 95% his fault. I offered to pay for his bicycle, he wanted more. He proceeded to go to get massages, and then his son got involved and 2 years later they are STILL trying to get money from my insurance company despite this old man having ZERO injuries. It cost me about US $2000 to fix my bike and I had numbness in my leg for 6 months. The rules here in Japan are simply not fair - a pedestrian or someone on a bicycle can do whatever they want here and it will ALWAYS be your fault no matter what stupid thing they do. So when you drive in Japan - always be careful to the extreme because if anything goes down with a pedestrian or someone on a bicycle it WILL be your fault no matter what.

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Not for me. I am between the ages where I would be exempted from the law and although I generally think it is unsafe to cycle on most roads in Japan, it is highly doubtful the law would agree with me.

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although I generally think it is unsafe to cycle on most roads in Japan, it is highly doubtful the law would agree with me.

The law has specifics, so as to not have a gray area as to when it is unsafe to ride on the street. I listed some of these earlier:

-- There are lots of cars parked on the road, and it's difficult to pass them on the right

-- There are lots of cars driving on the road, and the road is narrow

-- There are cars honking/tailgating/being aggressive towards the cyclist

If you are riding on the sidewalk without any of these issues, then you should be riding on the street.

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The issues listed represent very near 100% percent of the roads I have walked, rode or drove along in Japan. I would not even contemplate riding a bike down a road where I have to duck to avoid the mirror of the oncoming bus. Japanese seem to not be bothered with this. Thus, I would be in a minority claiming that the road is too narrow and crowded with oversized vehicles to be safe.

If the law fit my judgement of the the matter, it would not even exist. Yet it does exist, thus my judgement of what is and is not safe would not be upheld by the law.

Does the law state specifically the minimum safe space between the side of a passing truck or bus and the curb? If not, it ain't specific enough. Even if given, not workable in the real world as I have yet to see anyone get off their bike and measure the width of a sidewalk or the space between vehicles and the curb. Not that I am suggesting we should.

As a cyclist, I do not want to ride on the road. As a motorist, I do not want cyclist on the road. It is unsafe from both perspectives. With sidewalks being disallowed for riding except in certain circumstances, many of which are vague, we have the exact situation I witness every day on the roads of and around Tokyo, absolute mayhem.

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In my home-country cycles belong on the road, sidewalks are fine if you want to get beaten up.

Roads are safe as long as you follow the rules, you can't cycle without a licence/test.

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In my home country roads are wide enough for bikes and very large trucks with room to spare and without blind corners. If the roads aren't wide enough, large vehicles are prohibited.

If a cyclist or pedestrian violates the law and causes an accident they and they alone are legally responsible.

Drivers there have no fear of getting arrested for an accident such as the one reported in this article.

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The issues listed represent very near 100% percent of the roads I have walked, rode or drove along in Japan.

You must live somewhere different than I - I ride on the road every day without worry.

As a cyclist, I do not want to ride on the road. As a motorist, I do not want cyclist on the road. It is unsafe from both perspectives.

As a pedestrian, I don't want cyclists on the sidewalk. It is unsafe.

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Death from accidents between cyclists and pedestrians, though not unheard of, are far less often fatal than accidents between motor vehicles and cyclists.

The kyumitokaido the runs in front of my house is heavily trafficked and not wide enough for me to pass a cyclist without crossing the orange center line and into oncoming traffic. Yet, the city bus runs down and as it is the first route to the city center off route six, large trucks also use it. When I come upon a cyclist while driving most anywhere in Chiba, my choices are;

A. Drive no faster than the cyclist until traffic opens up enough for me to pass and hoping the the cyclist isn't taking the entire 25 km route that I am. B. Refuse to drive less than the speed limit and bump the suicidal parson out of my way. C. Cross the center line to pass the cyclist as soon as I come upon them without checking first to see if I won't cause a head on collision.

I chose A. But why should I not be able to drive the speed limit just because someone chooses to ride a bike? The place I worked was inaccessable by train from my home and too far to be able cycle in bad weather and still be professional for class. I choose A. but many and I'd say from experience that most other drivers do not.

There are very few side walks as wide as even two meters and far less than the now required three. Even the sidewalk along the local section of route 6 is not even two meters in most spots and nowhere is it as wide as three. Often barely one.

I have lived in three very different locals in Tokyo, one in Niigata and now in Chiba. Not the whole country to be sure, but my experiences are from all these and the many I have traveled to.

If you are riding the road every day without worry, then you have found a road few others have ever witnessed or you are paying no more attention than the mother involved in this accident. I bet she too rode her bike everyday without worry. Sadly, she will probably continue to do so, blaming the driver entirely for her loss and not her own irresponsibility. Her family and friends will most like agree with this misplacement of blame just as the law does.

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If you are riding the road every day without worry, then you have found a road few others have ever witnessed or you are paying no more attention than the mother involved in this accident.

Nope. I just stay to the side of the road, and let the cars go around me - as they always do. I also don't do things like bike out into a red light when cars are coming from the side. You know, common sense. I also wear a helmet - you know, insurance.

It's not safe for bikes on the sidewalk. Bikes are vehicles. They belong on the road, and drivers need to understand this and work with them.

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Bikes right next to my car are in my blind spot. Even though I look very very carefully, if you are in my blind spot when I turn left and you are not paying really close attention, your dead as I can not see you. Nor can any other driver.

If you are on the side walk, that little bit of extra distance reduces my blind spot significantly and greatly increases my ability to see you and stop mid turn if you either do not notice my turn signal or don't care because you have the right of way.

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Bikes right next to my car are in my blind spot. Even though I look very very carefully, if you are in my blind spot when I turn left and you are not paying really close attention, your dead as I can not see you. Nor can any other driver.

You're supposed to do a shoulder check for your blind spot. Driving 101. On top of that, you should know where cyclists are, because you have passed them to get to where you are, or you are stopped at a light, and should be paying attention for any bikes that may come up on you. These are the rules of the road. Ignore them, and unlike the driver in this story, who was almost definitely released without indictment, you will be indicted.

Of course, that won't save the dead cyclist, so any cyclist worth their salt should make sure that cars have seen them before trying to pass the car when it is about to turn. Cycling 101.

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@strangerland & Japan T

Ok ok i felt responsible for the arguments between the two of u... :D

Anyway, as long as bicycles and motor vehicles continue to share a road, there will always be fatalities.

The best solution hopefully will be the segregated cycling lanes on roadways as seen in some European and US cities.

Anyone here uses those before?

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There are some segregated toads in my neighbourhood, metal barriers between pedestrian and cyclists and another barrier between cyclists and cars( they can't stop/park in the cycling lanes. Other toads use greneery to separate.

Now I don't live in the 23 wards but west of it and they did widen many roads by pulling down residential houses. Most Bicycle lanes are still painted on the road but in a different colour.

Being from a European city where we often use Bicycles for commuting in summer we have tons of bicycles lanes and the same problems pedestrians and cars ingoring the lanes.

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Rule number one of the road: assume you are the only one following the rules. Rule number two: the bigger the vehicle the more right of way it has. These have kept me out of many accidents.

Additionally, don't hang out in the bind spot, driving and cycling 101. Unless it has a bubble canopy, like a fighter jet, offering an unobstructed 360 degree view, every vehicle has blind spots and no amount of shoulder checking will reveal a bike, motor driven or otherwise, nor many small cars in them.......unless the diver has X-Ray vision.

You equate "can not see" with 'does not look'. You are wrong to do so. I can not see you does not mean I did not look for you. I look, and look again and because of numerous close calls, I look yet again. And often can not see you even then. A blind spot is blind, hence its name, and no amount of looking changes the fact that it is blind.

Due diligence is required of all drivers but that does not excuse the dangerous behavior of bikers who choose blind spots to cruise in or ride up alongside, whether they are following the law or not.

Your comments do not follow the story. The problem of not seeing bikes is rarely from those passed in up to speed traffic. I pass them and the are forever behind me. The problem is in stop and go traffic, and slow moving traffic where the bike comes up from behind and on the side or dashes out across the opposite lane from between stopped vehicles. There is absolutely no way a driver can see a cyclist who came up alongside the truck behind them and stops in their blind spot. And that is the exact spot many bikers like to stop. And then they ignore the turn signal which must be flashing in their face and try to drive through the turning car and wonder how they found themselves in an accident and blame the driver for not driving carefully.

I find it very hard to believe that in all your extensive experience cycling in Japan, you have never seen that there are times when the fastest moving vehicles on the road are two wheeled. The distance from my home to the on ramp for the Gaikain is just under 4K. On Monday mornings this takes 40 to 90 minutes. How many cyclists do you suppose I pass during this leg of my commute?

Also, when cars are forced to go around you, do they ever have to cross the orange center line to do so? If so, how does it feel to compel others to violate the law in order to accommodate you? Myself, as a motorist I resent it. As I cyclist, I take the sidewalk to not burden motorists in such a fashion and yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk.

However, I also do not like passing cyclist as here they, as a group, as erratic as a flock of birds. You never know if or when they are going to just take off at a 90 degree angle directly in front of you. Not an uncommon experience at all.

Dashboard cam footage shown at my last DL renewal showed a very good reason why riding alongside stopped traffic is foolishly dangerous. On coming traffic was stopped and the driver wanted to make a right hand turn into a parking lot. Once the car blocking the entrance moved, the next car in line flashed his head lights to let the driver into the parking lot. Just as the hood of the turning vehicle passed the left side of the stopped car, a motorcyclist came flying up alongside the stopped cars. His bike somersaulted over the hood of the turning car sending the biker flying out of view. The driver had not a prayer of avoiding the accident yet according to the DL official, was blamed because he did not drive carefully enough. There was nothing the driver could have done to avoid the accident.

If it were a cyclist, the outcome would have differed little as the field of view between the stopped vehicles was so narrow as to not allow time enough to react to even a slower cyclist. So, even assuming that you are the only driver following the law may not always save you as both were following traffic law in this case. A cyclist on the sidewalk most likely would not have been hit as they would have been sufficiently far enough from the vision obstructing vehicles that the car moving as slow as it was would have allowed both motorist and cyclist time to react.

While on the subject, here is another to make motorists cringe and from the same safety lecture. It was a reenactment of a collision between a cyclist and a farmer in his mini farming truck. The cyclist was on the wrong side of the road, listening to ear buds and playing with his phone and ran the red light at a blind corner. The farmer was driving well with in the speed limit, had the green light and had no way to anticipate the situation nor see the cyclist until too late. Yet, the motorist was faulted for not driving carefully enough.

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