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How to prevent your child from causing bicycle accidents that can get you sued

24 Comments

A bicycle is innocence itself. It’s fun and it’s practical. It belches no exhaust, pollutes no air, poisons no lungs. It keeps you fit and causes no traffic jams. It’s friendly. We master it in earliest childhood. Why must we graduate to the automobile? Would the environment be in the dire shape it’s in if we didn’t?

Who doesn’t remember his or her first bicycle? Or his or her child’s? Watching your little one hit the road for the first time, how can you help reliving your own first heady taste of freedom as you pedaled off all those years and decades ago?

Before your eyes mist over, we come now to the dark side of the bicycle. It does have one, Shukan Josei (Aug 6) reminds us. Better teach your kids a few hard facts of life before turning them loose on one. A bicycle carelessly driven is a potentially lethal weapon. And when the case ends up in court, guess who’s in the dock? The parents, of course.

Here’s a horror story that will send shudders up any parent’s spine. In September 2008, a Kobe fifth grader, his mind on something other than the road in front of him, rode his bike straight into a pedestrian in her 60s. She remains in a coma to this day. The case took five years to wind its way through the courts. When it did, the boy’s mother was ordered to pay the victim’s family 95 million yen in damages. She had not, the court ruled, given her son adequate supervision or instruction in road safety.

You don’t generally think of a bicycle doing major damage even if there is an accident. A few scratches, an apology, and that’s the end of it – right? Usually. Not always. Shukan Josei provides no figures to show how widespread a problem major bike accidents are, but its Kobe anecdote is one of several. Another, from Yokohama, concerns a senior high school girl who, riding at night without a light and focused on her cell phone, hit a 57-year-old woman, causing multiple lasting injuries. The court-imposed settlement: 50 million yen.

Under the law, a bicycle is a “light vehicle” – not a toy, warns Takayasu Kamo, a lawyer who serves as an adviser to the Japan Cycling Association. That means it entails responsibilities. For example: if you knock somebody down and flee, it’s not just bad manners. It’s hit and run. The law requires that you render what assistance you can and report the matter to the police.

“Most children run away,” says Kamo. Panic is understandable but is no excuse.

“Make sure your children understand: No riding under an umbrella; no riding while playing with a cell phone,” Kamo counsels. “No double-riding. No headphones. Teach them the basic rules of the road” – or risk facing dire consequences, as a mother in Kobe learned to her cost.

One final word to the wise from Kamo. Sometimes the most diligent training, the most thorough precautions, even the most careful and skilful riding, is no match for blind circumstance, and the worst happens anyway. His advice is: be insured.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

24 Comments
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Pukey - the last I heard was that she made a formal complaint to the main police station and received an apology from the head police officer. I dont know if the police officer in question was disciplined. The police refused to file a criminal report against the cyclist so she took him to some civil court instead and I believe he settled out of court for 3 hundred and something thousand yen. She wanted the money just because she was self employed and that was roughly what she lost in income because of having to care for her daughter while she recovered. It was awful because it was right outside the daycare - it could have been any one of our children.

A few months after that another cyclist ploughed into a group of them out for their walk and broke the leg of another friends 4 year old son! Unbelievable!

Baibaikin - the police stopped me once on my mamachari too. They were very polite about it, and said they were doing random bike checks. To be fair it was about 1am and I was on my way back home from the station after a night out in Roppongi and I was wearing a leopard print mini dress and sparkly shoes, but the police officer asked me if I was on my way home from work!!! I was 40 at the time so I wasnt sure whether to be flattered or insulted!

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Children? Perhaps some adults should take note too. Like the man who went WAY too fast and knocked my friends 3 year old little girl flying leaving her with multiple injuries (now recovered thank God). We took off after him up the street and he pedalled like mad to escape, but luckily the friendly construction site security guard up ahead who knew us grabbed him.

Cue then all kind of appalling behaviour: "I didnt know I had hit anyone", "My wife is having a miscarriage and Im rushing home for that", etc etc. Then the wife turned up at my friends door crying and saying she was ill (she wasnt even pregnant it was later discovered). Then the police came round and told my friend she had no rights to make a complaint as it was on the sidewalk not the road and she "cant get any money from it" - then he spied her Chinese-American husband sitting in the lounge and she than faced a barrage of questions about him. When she answered the "where is he from?" question with America the police man accused her of lying and said "Clearly hes not an American!" It was disgusting.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

“Make sure your children understand: No riding under an umbrella; no riding while playing with a cell phone,” Kamo counsels. “No double-riding. No headphones. Teach them the basic rules of the road” – or risk facing dire consequences, as a mother in Kobe learned to her cost.

Um ... and perhaps somewhere in there we could drop in something about wearing a helmet too?

I would prefer to pay money for my kids bad biking than have to pay for his funeral.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The police that stop me a couple of times a month to check that my mama chari belongs to me should be bothering the masses who ride with umbrellas, headphones or while texting in plain view. I have three friends whose young kids have been hit by idiots who weren't paying attention - and of whom none stopped. When I last put this point to a jobsworth, tubby police officer, he asked to see my gaijin card. Tremendous waste of my taxes.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

When it did, the boy’s mother was ordered to pay the victim’s family 95 million yen in damages. She had not, the court ruled, given her son adequate supervision or instruction in road safety.

Excuse me? She was NOT ordered to pay 95 Mil to the victims family, even a JT article states otherwise!

35 million will go to the victim’s long-term care bills, and 60 million will go to her insurance company.

http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/mother-ordered-to-pay-y95-mil-after-bicycle-riding-son-collides-with-elderly-woman#comment_1599365

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Uni students are the worst for smart phoning when riding. There are near misses and crashes around my local campus all the time. They don't seem to care about which side of the road they ride on either.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

If parents made it a habit for kids to wear a helmet and teach them bike manners, they will most likely not be reckless cyclists...unless they hang out with the wrong crowd and forget the rules of the roads.

With that said, it is up to adults to teach these kids proper manners. Make adults wear helmets. Many cyclists ride on the wrong side of the road. Make them stop and look before changing lanes or crossing the street. There are too many adults that don't follow the rules. If police uphold the law and hold these guys accountable for their actions, then kids will learn too.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

ChibaChick. I think those cops were doing random checks for mini dress at 1 am not for the bicycle. Thumbs up for your great stories today.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

What is preventing the police from stepping out of their kobans and redirecting the bike salmons to the correct side of the street? What is preventing the police on bicycles from adopting the use of helmets themselves and become a role model? Where are the posters or signs that say something like: "If you can read this you are riding on the wrong direction." or "Helmet smart kids to keep them in the gene pool."

5 ( +5 / -0 )

How about the people who ride on the wrong side of the road against on coming traffic in rush hour and disobey all rules of the road, then if you hit them with your car they put their hand out.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

How about lights on bikes? I've been in cars in Chiba for example when cyclists have appeared from nowhere - no light-reflecting materials, no lights... nothing. And the streets around Nagareyama aren't that well lit at night.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I don't think this is necessarily a problem of cyclists. It's a problem of Japanese society as a whole.

Nobody seems to want to take responsibility for their actions. They walk as if in a daydream. Mind wandering, no-one at home. How many times have you seen someone walking through a busy station (let's say Shinjuku) during rush-hour, reading a book?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

“Make sure your children understand: No riding under an umbrella; no riding while playing with a cell phone,” Kamo counsels. “No double-riding. No headphones. Teach them the basic rules of the road” – or risk facing dire consequences, as a mother in Kobe learned to her cost.

This article makes it sound like these poor innocent kids are riding around without knowing basic safety precautions that are pretty much programmed into our DNA.

It's not a matter of KNOWING the rules, it's a matter of FOLLOWING the rules. This means being a REAL PARENT and actually PUNISHING your kid when they do something they're not supposed to, instead of hide behind this crazy, "those poor innocent kids just don't know how to behave!"

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Chiba Chick

That man should be fined all medical costs plus an additional ¥500,000. What a loser.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@bruinfan: I quite agree. It wasnt just that he tried to hit and run, but also his totally bad attitude afterwards - man up, accept that you screwed up and face the consequences. There is so much dodging of responsibility and saving their effing "face" in Japan. Whats important is a little girl with bad injuries, not your flaming "face"! Ahhh - thanks Bruinfan! Rant over! Still feel angry every time I think of it!

Would you believe right after posting that I ALWAYS see Americans with bicycle helmets on, I went out and saw a bunch of them with no helmets at all!!! So - erm - kind of take that one back then!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

ring the bell when you are approaching somebody

btw, this is apparently illegal. not to mention irritating. i won't move for someone ringing a bell. i will if they say sumimasen.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

One of the first things I noticed on moving to the US is that here EVERYONE wears helmets on bikes - adults and children. You feel embarrassed if you go out WITHOUT a helmet on! I took the kids to the park yesterday on their bikes and the youngest doesnt have a hemet yet (we need to buy him one) but he still only has one of those ride-on push trikes with no pedals anyway so I didnt think it was a big deal. But I noticed people looking at him and at me and I could tell people were thinking "why doesnt he have a helmet on?" and I felt pretty humbled. Im going to get one today.

I thought there was a law in Japan for anyone under 13 to wear a helmet? Not that you would ever see the police enforcing it.

Different culture I guess. Sort of like when I went to Australia and I noticed very few people actually baking themselves in the sun because the Aussies are so much more clued up on skin cancer than we were back then and the slip slop slap campaign was in full force.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Japan needs to do something about the bicyclists. They obey no laws of the road and should not be allowed on sidewalks where people are walking. Japanese laws actually promote unsafe cycling. It is always the cars fault even if the car is not moving. They really need to make cyclists more responsible and have a mandatory bicycle safety class if people want to use a bicycle for transportation on the road and in busy area.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

How to prevent your child from causing bicycle accidents that can get you sued

Show example how to ride on the right side of the walk, ring the bell when you are approaching somebody while slowing-down while passing the person and do not assault high speed riding and slalom. Almost the opposite of what is doing the average bicycle rider in Tokyo.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

ChibaChickAug. 02, 2013 - 07:44AM JST Then the police came round and told my friend she had no rights to make a complaint as it was on the sidewalk not the road and she "cant get any money from it"

She should have called a lawyer at this point. The simple fact is that under Japanese law what the man did is classified as an assault. It doesn't matter if it was on the road or not (what an idiotic statement? It reminds me of the old joke, "Keep death off the roads.... drive on the sidewalk!". The idea that a driver who runs their car off the road into a building is somehow magically now exempt from being sued for damages is ... well, idiotic).

The man assaulted the child. If he was walking, riding a bike, a car, a unicorn... is irrelevant. Call a lawyer. Sue the cops for harassment and the man for damages.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

ChibaChick:

Then the police came round and told my friend she had no rights to make a complaint as it was on the sidewalk not the road

I'm a bit confused by that statement. I know most times the police and public don't give a damn about the rules, but theoretically, even in Japan, pedestrians have the right of way on the sidewalks. It sounds that the police officer was a right nasty person.

Anyway, I'm glad they managed to sue the cyclist. Yes, his attitude stinks. He knows he did wrong, caused an injury to a child and just can't face up to the consequences - I don't know how these people look at themselves in the mirror.

Thunderbird:

And the streets around Nagareyama aren't that well lit at night.

I'm afraid it's like that in many streets, including busy roads which rely on the cars' and shops' lights. I even use lights when I go jogging during the night. For me, using lights when running or cycling is also to warn other people I'm approaching as well as lighting up the path in front of me so that I can see where I'm going. I also see some folks who use their own lights when walking during night. Good on them.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

fds, that's right but sumimasen means you are approaching really slow and/or actually have to stop. Iligal or not I would use the bell few tens of meter when I am on a large sidewalk with some pedestrians takin all the width. Despite their right the pedestrians forget they have to be aware what's going on around them. Just like double riding too often school children or oba-sans are walking in couples or triples knowingly there is also bicycle traffic around them.

In general parents are responsible but police and school have to be more proactive in teaching safety and rules to both cyclists and pedestrians.

Grown ups are bad example and there is no re-education as if you have driving license suspended. And cyclists and pedestrians that don't drive also don't know how to behave or from what to be afraid thus we see so many on the wrong side of the road, with no lights, etc., etc.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

ChibaChick:

What an awful story. I'm more appalled at the treatment given by the police - it absolutely does nothing for their image when these stories come out. Useless, corrupt, racist, misogynist, lazy, incompetent. So what actually happened in the end?

I hate it when cyclists don't have lights on when it's dark. They can crash into a wall for all I care, but the problem is when they crash into other people. I must admit I've used an umbrella a few times, but I nowadays just bring a rainproof coat, etc if I know it will rain. I can't ride as fast with an umbrella but it shocks me how fast other cyclists can go with an umbrella.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Those laws aren't really governed anyway. I see heaps of people use umbrellas, mp3 players and phones while riding. I don't agree with the phone usage but I don't see how umbrellas and mp3 players are too big of an issues. It's the same as listening to music while driving! Teach cyclists to be aware and considerate. While they are at it, teach drivers the same thing. If the J-gov wasn't so afraid to actually speak up there are probably a million tiny niggling problems that could easily be made aware of and their consequences decreased.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

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