Japan Today



Cyclists feel under siege with new rules


No wonder cyclists feel aggrieved. Their conveyance of choice consumes no limited resources, pollutes no air, leaves no carbon footprint, and gives bracing exercise besides. And yet nobody likes them.

To motorists they’re a nuisance, to pedestrians a menace. “They terrify me, the way they barrel down the sidewalk,” one pedestrian, evidently speaking for many, complains to the Ehime Shimbun. The Nikkei, in a similar vein, bemoans cyclists “weaving in and out” among people on foot, “ringing bells in the faces” of honest citizens and, as often as not, lost in their own exclusive universes of earphone music and cell phone jabber.

Maybe the pride they take in helping to save the planet has gone to their heads. The police seem to think so, and are lately cracking down hard on scofflaw behavior they have long winked at.

They have a case. Nationwide, according to the Ehime Shimbun, 151,626 bicycles were in accidents last year, 80% of them involving motor vehicles. Nikkei says Japan’s bike accident rate is among the highest in the world.

An indication that it could get worse before it gets better is the surge in bicycle use following the March 11 earthquake – which, among other havoc it wreaked, exposed the fragility of the clockwork-efficient public transportation system commuters used to take for granted.

Legally, bicycles are classed as “light vehicles” and belong on roads, not on sidewalks. Enforcement has never been strict. That seems about to change. Both the Ehime Shimbun and Nikkei are pleased that police are taking the matter seriously but wonder if the letter of the law is really what the situation calls for.

As Nikkei observes “Simply forcing bikes onto the roads could aggravate another danger” – namely the threat cars pose to cyclists. Is putting cyclists’ safety at risk the only way to protect pedestrians?

Both publications lament Japan’s shortage of bicycle lanes and roads. Automobile priority has never been questioned, while cyclists are expected to fend for themselves but given no means to do so. That’s changing, though slowly. In 2008, the Ehime Shimbun reports, the Transport Ministry and National Police Agency set up model cycling courses in 98 areas across the country and saw bike accidents decrease in those areas by between 26 and 36%.

In the meantime, if cyclists are to be forced off the sidewalk, “drivers need to learn to co-exist with them,” says Nikkei. That could take a bit of “safety education.”

Cyclists will need that too. It’s fine for police to enforce the law – that’s their job – but many cyclists, Nikkei observes, “don’t even know the rules exist.”

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The authorities here cannot see the forest for the trees on this issue. There were 5 deaths from accidents between cyclists and pedestrians last year. And the number of accidents between bicycles and cars is already 80 percent of the total bicycle accidents. Moving the bikes to the road will mean an extra 20 deaths at least. And it will mean a lot more accidents.

What needs to happen is that the sidewalks need to stop being a free for all. A white line should be painted down the middle of all of them, and all traffic should keep left as much as possible, both pedestrians and cyclists. Not as a strict rule mind you, but as a rule of thumb. Cyclists should use whatever is appropriate whether its the road, a bicycle lane or the sidewalk. But, they should be restricted to riding on the left side, thus, always flowing the same as the cars, even when on the sidewalk.

What is crazy is that if a car hits a bike, the bike is never faulted. When a bike hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian is never faulted. Its nuts. Everyone should be held accountable for their own stupidity, including pedestrains. To have a class of legally empowered morons walking around is nearly equal to the fact that bicyclists are given impunity to run stop signs and stop lights and ride against the flow of traffic. So long as all that remains the same, throwing them in with the cars is going to make the careless pedestrians happy, but make the drivers extremely irrate, and make the bicyclists injured or dead.

5 ( +10 / -4 )

After having my brood of kids and myself almost mown down a few times by insane bicyclists, including one speeding gaijin man on a bicycle who really should have known better, I welcome any measures to get bikes off the pavements and away from pedestrians. It is not down to me to throw myself and my kids out of the way of some idiot who doesnt look where they or going, nor care who they hurt.

0 ( +6 / -5 )

As a cyclist I am also not happy about this. I always cycle on the road and follow the same rules as motorists. Cars I have never had any problems with, in my opinion the most dangerous road users are other idiot cyclists. Just last night for example I nearly ran into an idiot cycling against the traffic, on a curve with no lights. My fear is that now more of these brain-of-a-gnat two wheeled morons will be forced onto the roads. Hopefully Darwinism will sove the problem pretty quickly.

9 ( +12 / -5 )

Until the cyclists are held to the same rules as motorized vehicles things will not get better. There seems to be a mindset that anything not propelled by a gasoline engine is not dangerous. The first step is to get them off the sidewalk and then enforce/enact laws that will make them accountable as propelled vehicles. Bicycles are two wheeled vehicles and should be subject to the same regulations as scooters/mopeds etc.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

As a cyclist I absolutely WELCOME this crackdown. I am constantly frustrated by idiot cyclists on the pavement, as a pedestrian and a fellow cyclist. On my bike just two days ago, cycling alongside another woman on a wide clear pavement, she suddenly decided to veer sideways for no apparent reason and HIT me, knocking me sideways and into the path of a woman with a pram (thank god I didnt fall on her). She just cycled off, while I apologised to the woman with the pram even though it wasnt my fault, carried on ahead, got past the loony lady, stopped at the junction where the lights were red - she only came up behind me and hit me AGAIN!!!!

But when I have my kids on my bike, no way in hell am I cycling on the road the way the taxi drivers in particular and truck drivers are driving. In my area we have a road with 4 lanes of traffic each way - so do the authorities think in order to turn right on my bike I can cut across 4 lanes of trucks/taxis/etc? No way.

Bicycles wouldnt be a problem at all on the sidewalk if they didnt ride like blind incompetent morons. It really isnt rocket science and should be exactly like a car:

Dont speak on the phone/listen to music Indicate with your hands if you are going to suddenly change direction Dont speed and ride for the conditions and other "traffic" (eg pedestrians) Slow right down outside schools Look, check and check again before you make a manouvere Ride in a straight line on a straight road! Yes, really!

@Manta - SO true. Twice I have been nearly wiped out at a crossing by cyclists on the road who dont seem to think that the red light applies to them. But as you say - Darwin will take care of it!

4 ( +9 / -5 )

If bicycles are to be banished from sidewalks, are they going to erase all those bicycle lane marks on the sidewalks and on the crosswalks on street intersections that lead right into the sidewalks?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I assume that bicycle lane marks on sidewalks means that it is actually a "bicycle path"... of course I might be wrong!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Legally, bicycles are classed as “light vehicles” and belong on roads, not on sidewalks.

Been saying this for years on this site.

0 ( +5 / -6 )

@Nicky, I'm intrigued as to what you said to the loony lady, especially after the 2nd incident...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Worst thing is the way Japanese cyclists veer from pavement-into-road, without so much as a cursory glance backwards. Up until now I/they have been lucky in that they have pulled in a couple of metres ahead, but one day someone's going to find themselves being propelled back into the pavement/rail/hedge with a hearty shove, and I assure you it won't be me.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

They need to properly teach casual bicyclist the law of Physics. There are a lot of crazy obachans holding an umbrella on one hand with tons of grocery in the basket and believing she can stop at a moment notice. I also see some bicyclist on the road that goes against the flow of traffic (out of convenience or some other reason). Get them off the road ! ! They are a menace from my point of view.

4 ( +5 / -3 )

This issue is very complicated. For example, I wonder if any of you differentiate between a gearless mama-chari and a racing bike capable of hitting average city car speeds? Where one should ride largely depends on the speeds you attain and the amount of traffic, whether pedestrian or vehicular. And the country is different from the city, and Tokyo probably unique.

And Nicky makes some good observations too. Women with children on bikes should be on the sidewalk for sure.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Japanese old ladies jump off their bikes in the most ridiculous spots. They should be forced to ride tricycles.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

@Nicky, I'm intrigued as to what you said to the loony lady, especially after the 2nd incident...

I just asked her why she had hit me again and she looked at me with her mouth open not saying a word, so then I just said "Please watch where you are going before you really hurt someone" - she just nodded wordlessly and cycled off.

I didnt get too pissy with her because she obviously wasnt vindictively targetting me, she just seemed to be on a different planet!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

And Nicky makes some good observations too. Women with children on bikes should be on the sidewalk for sure.

Thank you Shoot&scoot - great name by the way but I hope it doesnt refer to what I think it is referring to! And if it does - have we met before??! ;-)

I would happily ride on the road if I thought I wasnt taking my life in my hands and more importantly my kids lives. I can just see what will happen the first time an impatient taxi driver gets stuck in a lane behind a cyclist. I trust myself to ride sensibly and safely on the sidewalk, therefore I want to continue, especially when the kids are riding with me. However, I dont trust a single other berk on the road!

I heard that children under 13 will be allowed to ride on the pavement, so I am guessing that includes ones who are passengers in a mama-chari? Anyone over 13 in a mama-chari is either drunk or taking over-protectiveness to an extreme!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

When I was a kid at school in England, we were not allowed to ride a bike to school until we had passed the "Cycling Proficiency Test."

Each term, a couple of policemen would come to the school and conduct this one day course. There were lots of practical things to do, it was good fun and really did help ride safely.

One thing, for example was practicing glancing behind without stopping or turning the bicycle.

Kids learned the hand signals and rules of the road.

Now if they could do something like this, that wasn't just a paper test, it would reduce the number of accidents. At the same time, the driving schools should add awareness of bicycle riders to their curriculum.

A lot can be done with education.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Moms, dads and teachers will be pissed off when their kids are forced to ride on the road on the way to school. "This is great move towards batter safety." (sarcasm)

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Whatever rules they decide on, I hope at least there will be clarity on how bikes move in the street. Either with the traffic (sensible) or against the traffic (not sensible). But right now, they can do BOTH, which is completely insane.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

In my town, there is only one road that has side walks. All the rest do not so you have to ride in the road. Saw a lady get hit last week but it was her fault. She went straight through a stop sign....then the ambulance. Blood had to be washed away.

Kids have to ride their bikes to school but only high school kids are allowed to do that.

What is dangerous in my town is leaving a store or restaurant and getting slammed by a car or bike passing.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

This news pisses me off! I understand the importance of protecting the cyclists, however, the keystones need to take it one step at a time. How about doing something about the late night bosozouku's that raid the streets at night before starting another campaingn on cyclists.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

The cops are afraid of them Gurukun. Haven't you ever seen them ride behind them with the siren on and flashing lights? American cops would bump the rear wheels.

The cops have had plenty of practice stopping HS girls with short skirts on bikes, so they will be used to this.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Without a proper bike lane wide enough for bikes to pass one another, forcing bikes to the road will surely cause more serious injuries. Ever noticed what happens when you have a lot of bikes near each other on the road? They occupy quite a lot of space constantly passing each other, particularly because of all the illegally parked cars who might open their doors at any time. Many cars feel they own that space, and some will end up mowing down a few bikers as a result. As someone who rides a lot of road every day, when I see an obasan riding super slow in the street, I always think about how much safer she would be to get her slow ass out of the road and onto the sidewalk where she belongs.

As for the problems we all hate on the sidewalk... Perhaps if we could somehow educate people to share the limited amount of space more appropriately, things could be far better. This is really something they should be teaching repeatedly throughout elementary and high school education here. "How to walk safely", "How to bike safely", etc.

I agree there are lots of idiot bikers around who engage in some of the most risky behavior of anyone involved, as most of us have experienced firsthand while walking. However, certainly a fair number of accidents occur between bikes and pedestrians where it's the pedestrian's fault as well. Personally I am a hyper-aware, cautious, and safe bike rider who prefers to stay in the street when possible. However, there are times and places where the sidewalk is a better or safer option, so I have experience with that as well. I've never collided with any pedestrians while biking, but have had some close calls. In every one of those close calls, despite my cautious biking, entirely unnecessary, unaware, erratic, and unpredictable behavior of pedestrians was a major factor.

People here really need to spend a bit more time thinking about what is going on around them, and how to behave in a way that prevents chaos. Regardless of how busy a sidewalk is, there's never anything to be gained by weaving back and forth while walking. Walking straight, parallel to the where the sidewalk takes you, however, increases your chances of not being the next victim. If people would stay to the left when not passing each other, for example, sidewalks could be much safer. Marking a bike lane in the sidewalk is also a great idea if the police would enforce it. The rule should just say, stay in your part of the sidewalk unless passing. That alone would have prevented most of the close calls I've had on the sidewalk. I'm not going to ring my bell the entire time I'm riding past endless crowds of people, and while I do reduce my speed, I'm still going to be moving faster than walkers, and if they decide to jump right in front of me at the last second without looking, I may not be capable of avoiding the accident. And what's up with people who literally just leap out of conbinis, etc., right into the middle of the sidewalk without looking at all? Especially on really busy streets that see lots of bike traffic, it's common sense to move more slowly when coming around a corner, or injecting yourself right into the middle of a heavily used bike pathway. As a biker, I stay away from the building side of the sidewalk whenever possible to avoid those incidents, but shockingly, sometimes people charge out of business so quickly, and not just onto the sidewalk near the door, but all the way across to the far side of the sidewalk, which of course is where the fastest bikes tend to be riding.

Common sense, people! Can we not just use it? Really makes me sad when I see women with strollers or bikers with babies engaging in such risky movement. Some women will literally just shove their stroller out into a street or sidewalk so quickly, without first glancing to see if the coast is clear. I don't have a baby, but if I did, I would protect it far more than I protect myself, and I wouldn't insert myself into a busy pathway like that without looking first!

And the selfishness of people here when it comes to making space for others! Why do so few find it not rude to walk or bike side by side with their friends without ever breaking their formation so someone can get by? Do their parents never comment on this while they're growing up? Clearly it's very inconsiderate of others, yet they either don't realize it or don't care. This disrespect for everyone else around is one of my least favorite things about Tokyo. Strangers are people too! No, really!

Oh, and you wanna know one reason why I don't use my bell even when it seems like it would be a nice idea? If I'm coming up behind someone, and need to pass on one side of them in a fairly narrow space...you would think ringing the bell is proper courtesy, so they can know someone is about to pass through the narrow space next to them. That is simply not a wise thing to do here, because many will react to the bell by jumping to the side, right into what was obviously the best area for a bike to pass them! It's crazy, you're ringing the bell to let them know you're about to ride through that space, and they respond by unpredictably jumping into it! Things like "don't make any sudden movements when you hear a bike ring its bell" need to be taught in school. So yeah, for their safety and mine...best thing to do is just slowly pass by and not ring the bell.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Law in Japan is that Bicycles are classed the same as 50cc scooters, thus the same rules apply. You can ride on pavements legally when it is indicated to do so.

Real problem is that most people(incl. driver licence holders) think that Bicycles don't fall under the road-law and are classed like pedestrians.

My City and neighbouring one is rather good as they have build a lot of bicycle roads/lanes recently but those are physically separated from road traffic and pedestrian walkway. Don't stop them taking their dogs for a stroll on the bicycle lanes though.

Aside from bicycles not following laws how about enforcing them to be properly maintained(squealing brakes, chains clanking inside the cases, proper tire pressure, etc).

I don't ride on main-roads and prefer taking side-roads usually a quicker travel anyway.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

JapanGal, fully agree. I've seen that many times. I've also seen them stand at the corners of intersections doing nothing....just watching with all the other bystanders. But the first time a cyclists uses a cell phone, they get stopped. (Like I said, I understand that this is unsafe) But why are the boso's immune to all these laws, but honest cyclists are able to be stopped for less dangerous infractions.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Strongboss, I agree. I'm a cyclist too and most of the time I ride on the road. But sometimes, no, many times I am forced into the sidewalk because it is way too dangerous to ride on some roads.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Saw another obachan just this morning fall off her bike while trying to do the keri-keri-nori, on the right side of the road, on the sidewalk, with a parasol attached to the back and groceries handing from the handles, and even a sun-visor for whatever reason. That's at least four infringements, and forget that she troubled those around her to keep in mind that she probably hurt herself (or at least the groceries... I saw eggs in one bag!).

'Cyclists' are indeed a nuisance, and I'm sorry but on sidewalks, which themselves are far too small in most places if they exist at all, are sideWALKS, not meant for bicycles (and yes, even in Japanese they are 歩道, not 乗道). There are FAR too many fatalities each year do to people disobeying even the most common sense of bicycle laws.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I added previously, but for some reason it was cut, that all that aside bicyclists DO have a lot of disadvantages, mainly that the roads are not at all safe for them to ride on. Forget for a moment that there are almost ZERO bicycle paths in this nation (and where they have them people ride motorcycles to go around the cars!), when you take into account the double parked cars and illegally parked cars around stations and convenience or department stores you literally have the bicyclists going into the opposite lanes to face oncoming traffic. Cars also pull out of driveways, ignore stops, and come out of parking lots in front of bicyclists thinking that the little nod and hand up they give you makes up for the broken bones -- I've had two bicycle accidents this way, with one driver insisting that it was my fault and we negotiate without calling the police (which I did, and which he regretted).

Anyway, they need to educate the people, and police for that matter, about the actual rules of the road, and make bicycle paths where plausible. The police also need to enforce parking laws for cars and fine motorcyclists and scooter drivers who weave in and out of said lanes to go around cars at stop lights or what have you. As it is it seems the government and police make new laws and just hope everything will work out for the best while they fail to do anything to ensure that they are safe and followed.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The sidewalk at a major intersection just outside my apartment complex is literally 10 cm wide at two or three points (I checked) due to utility poles, so how on earth can people be expected to ride bicycles while a flat-bed truck or massive bus is behind them, let alone walk safely. There is a man who stands out there every morning with a 'Please walk single file on the sidewalk' sign because it's so unsafe. What does the city do about it? nothing. What can a bicyclist do? Again, nothing.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I stay on the road when it is safe and do not worry about cars as much as the mopeds zipping in and out of traffic on either side. When I do use the sidewalk I stay vigilant and ride and pass slowly when it is safe. Everyone says to build bicycle lanes, in reality most of the roads in Japan are not even big enough for cars to drive safely.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There are many valid and interesting comments on this thread with negative marks.


2 ( +3 / -1 )

They might as well just erase the bicycle path marks on sidewalks and crosswalks, as there are always pedestrians who pay no heed to them, and walk within the designated bicycle path.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

After acouple of years of cycling around Tokyo with limbs still intact, I am seriously thinking of applying for stuntwork in Hollywood!.Hoikuen drop off and pick up are just plain crazy. Cyclists coming at you from all directions and sides of roads, people just walking out onto roads or sidewalks without so much of a glance. It`s really quite dire and outright dangerous.

A few times, Ive seen police in a local park teaching crowds of school kids road safety awareness for cyclists. Thats all fine and dandy but it just aint going to work if you are the only one in a crowd of rubber screeching cyclists all intent on getting to point B. You should have seen the looks I got...one guy actually nearly hit a lamp post gawking at me...could have been my great looks but.....as I pulled into the middle of a road, right arm signalling my intention to turn.A police guy stood nearby showed appreciation that I wasnt just russian rouletting through the traffic!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The solution to this problem should be common sense. If a cyclist is riding like a madman on a sidewalk, he should be stopped by the police & sent to a one day bicycle safety class. We should not throw all the cyclists out on the street because of the bad cyclists. To put cyclists out on the street is the worst thing they could do because Japanese cyclists dont know which side of the road to ride on, dont wear helmets, often don`t have lights, & often just swerve out in front of traffic without looking. So they will end up getting hit but the drive will do the time. In my town most of the streets are narrow and conjested but the sidewalks tend to be wide so it makes sense to keep bikes off the street unless the bike is going fast, then they should stay off the sidewalk. Slow lane for bikes should be the sidewalk and fast lane should be the street.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There are many valid and interesting comments on this thread with negative marks. Why?

It has happened on a few other threads too. There are some really sad losers who just go through thumbing down for the "fun" of it. Just ignore it.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Hey guys I'm reading this from Australia where bicycles are classed as vehicles and police regularly give out infringement notices if you aren't wearing a helmet, stopping at red lights, riding on the left etc. (same rules apply for bicycles and cars). About ten years ago they changed the rules nationally in Australia and made bicycle riding on the footpath optional. The rules are a bicycle can ride on the footpath but must give way to pedestrians and must ride with due care and attention (not dangerously or quickly). I ride my bicycle every day to and from work, to go shopping etc. and always ride on the footpath. Sometimes though in the middle of Brisbane (capital city) the footpaths are too busy with pedestrians and I have to ride on the road. The motor vehicle traffic as a rule (at least 90%) are completely aggressive and never give way to you (as they legally have to). Many times I have to brake to allow a car to turn at the intersection in front of me, like they haven't even seen me. I know that they have, but because I'm a small human on a bicycle and they are in a two tonne steel vehicle, they simply take right of way and drive over the top of my intended path. Having said that, I sit here with a sore shoulder and a sore knee, having had two accidents in the last week. Today my own fault, trying to bump up onto the footpath on an angle, and fell off. Three days ago however I was riding down the footpath and an idiot actually ran sideways into me (without even looking). Too busy on his Ipod and for whatever reason decided to change to the other side of the footpath running along (and without looking up). So yes, idiots on the footpaths, and idiots on the road. Personally, because I can, I always ride on the footpath because it is a lot safer. If your government changes the bicycle riding law, I hope they make riding on the footpath OPTIONAL, because it is a lot safer.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

johninnaha: "There are many valid and interesting comments on this thread with negative marks."

A number of readers on this site get upset when you retort their comments on other threads and just click 'bad' on anything you've posted, regardless of whether it's genuinely bad or not. One prime example of this is when a woman said she felt very sorry for families stuck in shelters in the aftermath of the March 11th disasters (on the article about increasing suicides under such situations) and someone marked it as 'bad'.

Nothing you can really do about it save if you like the comment click 'good' to counter. Doesn't mean much, either way, but yeah it is interesting that people will just click bad for no reason.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Again in this country education lacks, example road safety and how to ride a bike while amongst other people, teach these bicyclists proper road sense and rules and have them intergrate into the main stream of how to move about, dont use keitai , umbrella or other while riding, look left and right and only proceed f the way is clear, stay as close as practible to the left of the carriage way and watch out for other road users, time these idiots learnt how to cohabitate with other road users, and if they have no clue then slam em hard with fines and stuff.

If they ride into the path of an oncoming vehicle and get killed its their fault and not the fault of the innocent motorist coming the other way.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's interesting that most people here think that there are going to be a lot of NEW rules regarding bicycles. When I first got my driver's license, there was a whole section on bicycles, and guess what? Those rules already exist.

Basically speaking, bicycles are supposed to be ridden on the road, not the sidewalk UNLESS it's too dangerous to do so or if the sidewalk has signs that indicate that bicycles are allowed. As someone else mentioned, they have the same rules applied to them as vehicles under 50cc.

Helmets are required for children up to the age of 16 (I think, I don't remember that part well) and lights are required for night time riding.

Another interesting point is that if a bicyclist breaks the traffic law (ie running a red light) they are MORE heavily fined that a motor vehicle.

All of this, however, depends on whether or not the rules are actually enforced.

(just a quick comment about the thumbs up/down: I think it would be nice if it had a total number of thumbs up and thumbs down, not just a final tally)

1 ( +2 / -2 )

johninnahaNOV. 03, 2011 - 06:11PM JST There are many valid and interesting comments on this thread with negative marks.


I was thinking the same thing.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

For some reason, the "why?" wasn't included in the above quote...

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I am a cyclist and pedestrian and in both cases I for once am glad about something the Japanese police are doing. Bicycle riders (differentiated from cyclists for whom bicycles are like violins and not battering rams) are a menace in Japan. Not just to pedestrians but to cyclists like me who not only follow the rule of law but also have a code of ethics. Try dealing with a flying wedge of high school creeps, five breast, coming at you as you are going with the flow of traffic as one is supposed to do. I find Japan's moronic bicycle riders worse than car drivers (who are no angels). The stupid girls with headphones who nearly sideswipe you. The equally stupid men riding their bikes while smoking cigarettes. The really stupid guys on cheapo imitation racing bikes who play Tour de France in tight allies where there is hardly enough room for one person to pass another. And yes, the barf bags who ride their drain pipe specials in crowded places where there are signs clearly stating that bike riding is forbidden.

One of the things I have learned about cycling in Japan is the virtue of walking your bike on a crowded sidewalk. It has become a seamless process of riding, walking when necessary and riding again.

There ought to be bicycle lanes where parking is forbidden. That should go a long way tof solve problems with pedestrians. Taxi drivers and truck drivers are another problem as they are too often perfectly happy to terrorize cyclists--a reason many riders seek refuge on the sidewalks.

I have to confess that I no longer commute by bicycle. I take to the byways where there are few cars and fewer pedestrians. There is actually a scenic bike and pedestrian path near where i live. But even there you'll find the morons who text as they ride.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Just popped out to the conbini a moment ago (just before 1am) and saw a guy riding on the wrong side of the road with no lights. A few moments later a police car comes along, the same side that the guy is riding incorrectly on, and does absolutely nothing.

Enforcement? What enforcement?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Bicycles belong on roads, not sidewalks. Many drivers of cars don't seem to think so, however. I actually had a driver pass on the right side one day (in the U.S.) while I was making a left turn (preventing me from taking the right side), match my speed, then tell me in a calm voice to "Get off the road." I was so surprised at his ignorance I had no reply.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The idea that bicycles are the same as motor vehicles is ridiculous. Cyclists are basically wheeled pedestrians -- they move using their own power (like pedestrians), they accelerate slowly, they take up very little space, they'er exposed to the weather, they weigh very little (probably less than pedestrians in total given how thin cyclists often are) and don't cause much damage when they hit things, and -- most importantly of all -- they have no protection against being hit by one-ton metal tanks that dominate the street, operated by careless automobile drivers.

Let's do two thought experiments and consider which one would result in fewer fatalities.

Imagine that automobiles are banned from the streets: pedestrian paths get widened and the middle of the road is a giant cycling lane. Fatal accidents would drop to zero -- the worst that would happen is that a speeding bicycle would hit a frail pedestrian, which is bad, but very, very few people would die.

Now imagine that bicycles are banned. Without bicycles on the roads, car drivers will probably go a little bit faster and be a little less observant, which makes things even worse for pedestrians!

Automobiles are the ones that have to have the most responsibility, because they're the only ones that can kill others due to their negligence. Not only that, but while the people they hit will suffer serious injury, thanks to all that metal armor, they won't endure a scratch! In addition, driving an automobile is a privilege, which some pedestrians/cyclists will never get to enjoy. The underprivileged should not be the ones bearing the most responsibility -- a driver can always sell his car and become a pedestrian or cyclist, whereas the latter can't always become drivers.

Let me close with one important point: I see way too many people -- pedestrians, cyclists, moped riders, and car drivers alike -- looking at their phones while moving! This is inexcusable. Everyone has the duty to look where they're going, to the best of their ability. A pedestrian can hardly complain when he walks right into someone (another person, bicycle; doesn't matter) because he had his head buried in an e-mail message on his phone that he was tryign to type while walking! Try that on a bicycle and the cops will be all over you. Police, how about advising pedestrians on how to occupy space in public? Yes, I know, people should have mastered that during childhood, but better late than never!

-1 ( +3 / -3 )

I am Cycling every weekday about one hours of time...I never met an Accident so far.. I ride my bicycle as I Drive a car , I give all Priority to Pedestrians, I never ring my Bell behind them......I am very Cooperative with every body, I am not going to show my Rights Unnecessarily on the Road.

0 ( +2 / -2 )


I am sorry but cyclists pose a considerable danger to pedestrians. People should not have to dodge bicycles in crowded pedestrian areas. Period. And cyuclists should be 100% responsible for hitting pedestrians if they insist upon riding in crowded areas or on foot traffic areas. Period!

Now that said. It is not a good idea to push the bone headed cyclists who we all dodge everyday into the street to be killed either.


Bike lanes where possible. Exceptions for mamachari bikes who should be ok to ride on sidewalks. Mountain bikes, road bikes etc... should be on the road with an exception for children. But new laws that demand that cyclists walk their bikes through crowds and not ride them through should be set and strongly enforced.

Then it becomes simple. Get off your bike when the sidewalk is crowded and walk it. Don't ride through crowded shopping streets like the shotengai in Kichijoji that so often has some genius riding through it.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@kevinintokyo I agree!

@miyazawa3 I have the same mentality. I usually don't ring my bell at pedestrians if I'm on the pavement; just utilize extra precaution. It's so annoying to have someone from behind ringing their bell at you. Bicycles don't own the pavement.

I try to ride to ride on the road as much as possible but the taxi drivers and scooters are a worry.

0 ( +1 / -1 )


Bike lanes where possible is an ideal, but let's face it, they'll still be full of the same idiots we've all been talking about above, which means that those who are more inclined to use bicycles as a means to exercise or commute reasonably long distances will still use the road; and drivers will then begin to think and tell us that bike lanes are where we should be. So, although this will possibly make the number of injured pedestrians fall, cycle-cycle, or cycle-car/truck/bus accidents may still increase; and in any event, bike lanes on the vast majority of Japanese roads is a pipe dream - there's not even enough room for a pavement on them, so as others have noted, the best idea is education of the etiquette and rules, and then the enforcement of those rules with the appropriate punishment where applicable.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Do the obvious; invest money in carefully produced and long running TV commercials that educate drivers and cyclists on rights and responsibilities. It worked very well in Australia, why not here? 2. have police go to schools and give lectures to assemblies etc. etc. The main problem is people don't know what is expected of them..

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I've made it clear before. New strict regulations are totally useless. The government, the NPA, local authorities have done absolutely nothing for more than half a century to make clear to cyclists the laws and the rules of the road. Virtually nothing to enforce the laws, nothing to inject common sense into road users. Cyclists must not mix with pedestrians, nor with motorized traffic. A country that managed to construct the first safe efficient high speed rail system in the world at tremendous cost and a motorway network in a relatively short time, also at high cost, should now seriously begin construction of dedicated cycling roads. Pretending to do something by introducing more rules will have zero result.

As a motorist (car, mostly), pedestrian and former cyclist, what I find the most disturbing and dangerous is the cyclist running against the traffic. I once stopped a young female cyclist who was coming at me on the wrong side of the road. But confronting these people is (also) totally useless. She informed me there were no rules. [kimatte nai, she quipped] I quit riding a bike soon after that, and many more incidents prior to that one. Once, driving my car,I h it a young man, a student, riding a bike, coming from my left at a considerable speed on the sidewalk. His made-in-China bike did not like the shock. The boy was OK. I paid him 20000 on the spot to prevent a hassle. This is the price one pays for living in a lovely country like Japan and I realize no country is perfect.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japanese people just need to have common sense and not drive cars and bikes with their head up their A#@. I see this all the time. Also Japan need to grow with the times. They still live in a world with old rules and laws. Even if they do something like change some laws.. but you know that won't really happen and if it does... everyone here knows that no one is going to do anything about it. Especially the police. I actually wish there were more accidence involving bikes ... then Japan will (hopefully) would say.. oh wait .. Lets do something about this... BUT wait... Japan tends to get a a group or panel together and study the issue for a few years and then come out with their findings and all the while no change has been done.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I do believe that most cyclists except children and the elderly belong on the street and special paths, but in reality it's often more convenient / safer to cycle on the sidewalk, so I would be sorry to lose the leeway of cycling there. Also, in reality I can see plenty of pedestrians choosing to walk on the street next to a perfectly good sidewalk.

If I'm expected to follow the same rules as car drivers then I would expect to have the same rights as well. I guess if every single cyclist instead of keeping to the curb chose to cycle in the middle of a lane thus causing huge traffic jams, very quickly we would have motorists begging the police to let us cycle anywhere else. You can't eat the cake and have it.

On the other hand most cyclists in Japan break the traffic rules and endanger other sidewalk and road users knowing fully well that they're under the police radar at most times. In my experience in Japan such rules are rarely enforced and largely ignored. But most Japanese seem also to believe that other people will look out for them, look the other way when they violate the rules and look upon the guilty party when it comes to an accident with at least some tolerance for the sake of harmony. If that changed, if reckless cycling were met with intolerance and a healthy dose of telling off, probably the police wouldn't need to introduce more and more "dame" rules.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This no bikes on the sidewalks nonsense will never be enforced, I saw just as many bikes on the sidewalks today as ever. Cyclists need to be more careful wherever they're riding, same goes for motor vehicle drivers, especially TAXI drivers. In all my years in Japan riding my bike I've never hit anyone.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Playing the devil's advocate here, on the other hand I find pedestrians in Japan to be some of the most unawares people in the world, which is why I'm not surprised by the high bicycle accident rate. They're always so distracted by talking to someone, looking at a sign/advertisement/restaurant/shop, or staring at their cell phone, book, PSP, or whatever else it is to ever notice anyone or anything coming towards them. And it's people of all ages, but especially teens in groups, female chatterbox duos, and old people. It frustrates me to no end just how common it is for people to be walking forward but be looking off to the side, or even straight down for some reason and never once do they look up from whatever they're doing to make sure that they're not about to walk into some kind of danger (or just another person). It's like I have to use my l33t ninja skills each day just to dodge and weave among the many other pedestrians who just walk about in a daze, never noticing anyone or anything outside the small bubble of their attention span.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The cops just gotta force cyclists to get lights on their bikes. Now at night I'm seeing them on heavily traveled roads with no lights or reflectors on both the front and back.

And if the police did crack down on wayward cyclists, I'm not seeing it in my local neighborhood nor the area in which I work. They're as dangerous as ever ...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Although in theory it makes sense for pedestrians to use the pavements and wheeled vehicles to use the roads, it just isn't practical here. As an example, the "cycle lane" between my house and the station (a good 20 minutes' run) is, at times, less than the width of a bicycle tyre. Meaning that in busy periods (when obviously most people need to use it), it is unusable, as the street is clogged with standing traffic and the occasional gomi collection pile our hard-working local government kindly chose to station there. Thus I have no choice but to try to negotiate my trusty steed through the herds of ovine JHS kids in their open-mouthed, four-abreast slouch to their seat of learning.

Nonetheless, it's good that the police now have a nice easy focus for their efforts, rather than having to trouble themselves with anyone who might be able to answer back, like the bosozoku yak wannabes, or the local government apparatchiks who are taking radioactive waste on the sly to distribute around the gaff.

This place is a feudal kharzi.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

What was wrong with that?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I agree with ShootandScoot and Australia (the country) that sometimes cyclists should be allowed on the pavement. But separating the road and pavement cyclists is going to be difficult. Perhaps as a start, all bicycles with a cross bar should be on the road. I wish that the police would enforce the use of lights on bicycles more/first.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Cycling is total anarchy. Most are responsible most of the time. Others, not so much. You can either stay permanently mad or just go with the flow. I have lights front and back. Ride defensively, not offensively. No distractions as staying alive is the main attraction.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )


" Law in Japan is that Bicycles are classed the same as 50cc scooters, thus the same rules apply. You can ride on pavements legally when it is indicated to do so. "

You can ride 50cc scooters on the sidewalk and on the road against traffic direction?! That is news to me!

I WISH that bikes were classed the same as scooters and treated accordingly. That would make life a lot easier.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Squeeky brakers should be shot. With an airgun or something. I am against capital punishment. But squeeky brake cyclists - not only are they dangerous, they really pierce my brain.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

And dont get me started on pedestrians ; yes when cycling I prefer the road but sometimes have to use the pavement. Even when I am a pedestrian myself, people over here walk to slowly and aimlessly..... i have run into people even when walking.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Im surprised about how many advocate bike lanes. Yes they are a nice idea but they are expensive and cant be put in everywhere ; how about just teaching people a little common sense?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

There is something missing! How about involving pedestrians in the education process as well! Forcing bicycles on the road is not solving anything - all parties need to know the rules and to follow in general.

I understand that even bell ringing is wrong unless the cyclist is in danger. But with groups of people not paying attention to the surroundings and obstructing the free movement how one can pass?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

i hate to say this but japanese people always seem so clueless when it comes to where they are in relation to other people or things. whether it's walking or riding a bicycle,. they are not aware of anything around them. growing up in a space-deficient country, you would think that they would by hyperly aware and act accordingly. this law is utterly needed because of this.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

When the Japanese police start following the letter of the law, then the masses may follow. Every single cop on a bike that I saw on the weekend was breaking the law about riding on footpaths.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Too many people living in too small a space......

0 ( +0 / -0 )


It is called radar.

Their radar is as unique as the length of their cho.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The law says that cyclists should use the road unless it's too dangerous. Therefore, if there is even one car nearby, they should always use the sidewalk, right? When I cycle to the store, it's insanely scary to have cars whiz by me at high speeds less than 15cm from my handlebars. The roads are just so small. I don't have a chance if I'm hit while on a bike!

On the other hand, riding on the sidewalk can be quite frustrating. As several people mentioned, pedestrians are often running out into the middle of the sidewalk without looking, or walking side by side and leaving no room to pass. I don't like using my bell, but what am I supposed to do when an otherwise empty sidewalk is impassible at one point just because three obaachans just HAVE to walk next to each other? If I don't have the right of way, then I'm supposed to patiently wait, right? That isn't fair at all.

Well, I've ridden a bike for years to get groceries and such and never once been in an accident or seen an accident. There were a few close calls, but avoided when I veered sharply out of the way of the idiot who didn't look before they sured into the way, etc.

I guess I'd just like to see cyclists get some priority as well. It isn't them causing the accidents most of the time, I think.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

BAN, yes BAN all keitai denwa use while riding bikes and yes BAN, yes BAN all those stupid MP3 players, WalkMan style portable music listening devices etc..they are BANNED in many other countries, but here in on the J islands the land of no common sense, sure jump on your bicycle, TEXT on your cellphone, listen to your music on your tiny head phones AS LOUD as POSSIBLE yeah maybe one every 5 minutes bother to look up or around you until you find yourself in the middle of a huge intersection!! And some truck is speeding down that road with no way to stop and avoid you and Sayonara, blood, guts etc..all over the place. HAPPENS every day here in Japan!

0 ( +0 / -0 )


The sidewalk is the domain of the pedestrian. It is the right of pedestrians on the sidewalk to walk any way they please; or even just stand there. If you're rolling too fast to stop for any reason, then you're going too fast.

And when someone honks or rings a bell at you, it means "You're in my way, please move.".....NOT "I'm trying to go though that gap behind you, please stay still."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Car drivers are much much worse and dangerous but it takes more effort to stop them so bikes are next in line. Crazy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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