Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Violators, beware: Police finally put some teeth in cycling laws

41 Comments

At the end of June, a revised traffic law went into effect with new and especially harsh penalties imposed for 10 separate offenses related to tailgating. As reported by Nikkan Gendai (July 3), a driver found in violation can be subjected to a fine of up to 1 million yen and/or imprisonment of up to five years.

Interestingly, penalties for tailgating also apply to bicycle riders.

"What?" you might ask, "How does a bicycle tailgate an automobile?"

Actually as recently as June 15, Tokyo police in Ogikubo arrested a man in his 40s on suspicion of tailgating a car with his bicycle and causing damage by colliding into it. The specifics were recorded on the car's drive recorder, and other evidence obtained from cameras on the street show the cyclist apparently leaned his handlebars toward the car and struck it intentionally.

"As of June 30, bicycle riders will also be cited for tailgating violations," a policeman is quoted as saying. "Even if the bicycle comes to a full stop, if the rider prevents another vehicle from proceeding through an intersection it becomes a traffic offense." For which the penalty, by the way, can be up to three months incarceration or a fine of up to 50,000 yen.

Nikkan Gendai provides a list of no fewer than 15 new regulations for cyclists that will be enforced, with penalties ranging from a fine of 20,000 yen to imprisonment of up to three years. They range from ignoring a traffic signal to riding in places where bicycles are banned; not slowing to avoid pedestrians; riding in car-only lanes and other places.

Usage of cell phone while in motion provides for a fine of up to 20,000 yen. Going against the direction of vehicle flow in a traffic circus may wind you behind bars for up to three months and/or a fine of up to 50,000 yen. And should you fail a breathalyzer test while on your two-wheeler, you may face imprisonment of up to five years and/or fined up to 1 million yen.

As with motor vehicle offenses, cycle violators can avoid the harshest penalties by sitting through a three-hour series of safety lectures and passing a written test. The charge for attendance is 6,000 yen. Since this system went into effect in 2015, some 22,969 people in Osaka have been cited, among whom only 161 opted to take the safety lectures. (Six of them were high school students.)

Broken down by type of violation, Osaka offenders included failing to come to a complete stop for a red light, 14,543 cases; illegally entering a rail crossing, 2,516 cases; not coming to a full stop when so required, 839 cases; bicycle not properly equipped (with headlamp, reflector, etc.), 406 cases; and riding where prohibited, 344 cases.

Attorney Hiroshi Yamaguchi tells Nikkan Gendai the authorities typically either issue a "warning card" or a traffic violation ticket. "The former is recorded at the police station, but no further action is taken," he says. "For the latter, in worst cases it goes into a person's record as a criminal offense, and people are legally required to include this on their resume form or personal history that's submitted when applying for a job.

"So when you lightly chose to disregard a traffic signal, remember, it can affect your whole life."

Yamaguchi also recalls a case where a 5th grade primary schooler on a downhill grade crashed her bicycle into a 62-year-old woman, leaving her in a vegetative state. In 2013 the local district court ordered her family to pay 95 million yen in compensation.

He strongly advises cyclists, particularly those who ride to work or school, to take out a liability insurance policy.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

41 Comments
Login to comment

"So when you lightly chose to disregard a traffic signal, remember, it can affect your whole life." 

This is perverse overreach by the police. Usual traffic offenses and minor crimes, much less bicycle infractions, should not be scarlet letters that follow a person around their entire life. Fine to have rules, but marking people for life for breaking the smallest of them is just oppression.

5 ( +13 / -8 )

This is perverse overreach by the police

Agreed.

There is some woeful (taught) behaviour out there, and those bad habits seep into driving, too. What would it take for the cops to take a proactive, preventative approach rather than acting after the event?

5 ( +9 / -4 )

The cyclist in the June 15th case wasn’t “tailgating”. This was shown on TV news.

He rode in a circle around the stationary car then deliberately crashed into the driver side door to try to get some “compensation money”.

Im fairly certain that most of these new rules are not new, riding drunk and blowing red lights has always been a no-no.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Kipling@ You are right, the translator chose the narrow definition of aori unten. Some other publications explain it like this: Japan has seen a swarm of incidents lately involving what’s called あおり運転 (aori unten), which is often translated as “tailgating,” but refers to any form of aggressive, unsafe driving. Some incidents end in physical assault, or in accidents claiming the lives of several victims.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Education, teach the cyclists the road rules and that they should obey them like the traffic around them.

Teach them how the traffic flows and teach them how to become part of it, not interfere with it by darting through it, in and out of it, across or suddenly flying off the footpath into the path of oncoming traffic.

Riding down the road in the wrong direction staring at a cell phone or wobbling along holding an umbrella can be hazardous to their health.

I might add all these bikes should have some license plate and everyone riding them should also have to have some liability insurance.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Cyclists and pedestrians share the same space on pavements and walkways there has to be respect and etiquette enforced with formal by-laws.

Unfortunately, the ignorant few selfish behavior means we all have to suffer. I am a keen cyclist however it is almost a daily occurrence to witness other cyclists jumping lights, and failing to take account of narrow passageways.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This is what I see every day. Cyclists racing across pedestrian crossings on the red light, forcing left turning

traffic to complete their turn on their light which has turned red. No lights or rear reflector on bikes at night time ( A rear light much better ) Cycling wrong way against traffic on 2 way streets Weaving through, not with pedestrians on large crossings Looking on their smart phones while cycling anywhere, Why ? is it some matter of life or death ? Racing at speed on footpaths without slowing down for pedestrians and school students cycling 2 or 3 abreast. I think footpaths are ok as long as cyclists ride carefully. 20 to 30 years ago, everyone rode on the footpaths but were mindful of pedestrians. I believe it is time for bicycles to have a rear number plate. I have seen in the past where cyclists have crossed on the red right in front of police who have yelled out to stop, but they race away as fast as they can so as not to get caught.
7 ( +8 / -1 )

Strict enforcement of the laws for cyclists is a must! The result will save lives! Scooter drivers are a run amok group and also need to be heavily penalized for their erratic driving practices! More enforcement by Police is a must!!!

2 ( +7 / -5 )

A cyclist tailgating a car? I think the cyclist will come off worse. What next, a cyclist tailgating a truck? Yeah, go for it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Its the usual story again. There's a problem, and laws a drafted. The police mount a big PR campaign and fine a few people who are breaking the new laws to raise some PR. Enforcement then drops off and the old habits come back and Police move onto the the next 'issue'

6 ( +6 / -0 )

In Europe, bicycles are regarded as vehicles, whose drivers must obey the law. Japan's narrow streets make it difficult in dense urban areas to create bicycle lanes, and that only encourages reckless cycling. I have seen otherwise perfectly law-abiding, socially conservative Japanese friends and acquaintances routinely ride on the wrong side of the street, their argument being that they wish to see cars ahead of them...I don't agree with those who take a cynical attitude towards police measures, though it's certainly true that all they can do is encourage a shift in public thinking. What's needed is the famous "consensus": Once bad cycling manners achieve the same low social status as public intoxication and smoking, there will be dramatic change.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This is perverse overreach by the police. 

No. The police are simply enforcing laws against poor cycling habits, which is sorely needed in Japan.

The overreach is by the prospective employers. Job applicants should not have to list such minor crimes on their resumes.. That is not only ridiculous, it should be against the law to request it, as it is in many Western countries.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Education, teach the cyclists the road rules and that they should obey them like the traffic around them.

There's a great deal of education and public-awareness campaigns already. The police frequently hold events, handing out literature and tissues, and schools teach the rules to students too.

I'm pretty sure that most cyclists understand the rules; they also understand that they'll rarely be punished for breaking the rules.

Enforcement is the problem.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Soon we will have to go to bicycle riding school to get a bike licence and pay Shakai hoken and be required to have bicycle liability insurance.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Absolutely dumb! This is why I have a car and never looked back.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

bass4funk

Absolutely dumb! This is why I have a car and never looked back

but always remember to have a current international license for first year and then Japanese license.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

"imprisonment of up to five years...." based purely on observational evidence, which is by it's nature subjective. People getting less time for assault or grand theft than for tailgating? Somebody is going to have to bring a test case regarding the constitutionality of this...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Cyclists should be licensed not the vehicle, anyone riding a bicycle should be required to wear a hi-vis vest with their individual licence number front and back. Then they can ride legally any bike. Also should be insured. That way the minority who break the rules can be identified and prosecuted and not must ride off unidentified.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

As with motor vehicle offenses, cycle violators can avoid the harshest penalties by sitting through a three-hour series of safety lectures and passing a written test.

I had the pleasure of going through this lecture and take the written test. Not because I violated any traffic laws but because I let my Japanese drivers license expire, and it is the alternative to retaking the computerized and driving exams. Retaking everything would have taken months depending on the time of year. I could attend the lecture, take the exam, and get my license all in one day. It was a no brainer.

Some of these punishments seem harsh for cyclists unless. Any person on bicycle tailgating a car is either mentally off, a scammer by pretending to be injured by the driver, or both. These scams are quite common in China. The law says that motorist responsible for a traffic accident must pay for any resulting injuries related to the accident for life. Therefore, scammers which a large majority are middle age to seniors willing through themselves in front of nice cars pretending to be hurt in hopes of an easy retirement plan. It is so serious that motorist who are not involved refuse to help people in serious because they too could possibly be sued.

Getting back to Japan, although some common cyclist problems are a concern, I think moped and scooters are a larger concern because they commit the same violations as cyclist at a higher rate of speed.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"Going against the direction of vehicle flow in a traffic circus?"

Do they mean roundabouts?

Where are these roundabouts? There is ONE in the whole of Okinawa.

WE NEED MORE!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The way some people ride bikes, carrying umbrellas, using smartphones, going across junctions in built-up areas without looking etc., a crackdown would actually be welcome. I say this as someone who does 5,000 km a year on bikes. Rather than prosecuting someone for most of these offences though, I would recommend the police simply confiscate the bike for two weeks or a month. That should be enough to teach people a lesson.

The one thing I will say is that it is disingenuous for articles or spokespeople to repeated refer to isolated accidents. Cars run people over and kill them every day. There is no need to constantly remind people than one (i.e., less than two) person did this on a bike in 2013. That's the textbook way to demonize people, here "cyclists".

9 ( +9 / -0 )

riding in car-only lanes

What does this mean? Does it mean highways or is there some kind of special 'car only lane' designation for some roads in Japan?

It all sounds depressingly similar to a few years back when the police announced a big crackdown in people riding on sidewalks, and then quietly dropped it a few months later when cycling deaths increased significantly.

One problem is that these things always seem to lump people together as 'cyclists' when there's actually a big difference between the old guy pottering along the pavement on his mamachari with an umbrella, and the guy riding in 5th gear on the road on a road bike.

The first group rarely follow the rules, but it rarely matters as they're not going all that fast. The second group usually follows the rules, and the main danger is to them from car/truck drivers who don't.

I fall into the second group, and try to follow the rules as much as possible, though drivers often don't make it easy. There are nominal 'cycle lanes' all along my route to work, but there appears to be no rule about not parking in them, so every 200m or so there's a car or truck in the way.. meaning you have to take your life into your hands to try and go around it, or hop up onto the pavement for that section of road to avoid it.

Side note, it's almost impossible to find adult bike helmets in regular stores in Japan. Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camera, Seiyu etc... all have bike sections, and kids bike helmets, but none have any adult helmets.

Which is probably why the only road cyclists I've seen wearing helmets have all been westerners.

Given the number of bike riders here (mainly casual) the number of accidents is remarkably low, but every so often there's a bunch of stories about all the terrible scary dangerous cyclists. Sigh.

PS/ I wish people would stop going on about that ridiculous case where the poor family of a kid was forced to pay 95yen. It was an insane judgement at the time and still is.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

PS/ If you do want to get an adult bike helmet you need to go to a specialist cycling store or go online (though you may have issues with the difference between regular fit and 'asian fit' helmets).

But you'll find as usual that such things are well overpriced in Japan. You can get an entry level Mips helmet for about $30, but it's going to cost you 8,000yen for one here.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Typically I walk in Tokyo and I am most fearful of these heavy, electric bicycles that so many mothers have. They ride at high speeds on the sidewalks now and zip by from behind. I am sure you will not get up quickly if they hit you. Again, however, no police presence is to be seen.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Reckless

Exactly. The police only seem to target men, and younger people. Housewives and older people always seem to get a pass here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There aren’t enough cops to police this....yet more useless laws!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

but always remember to have a current international license for first year and then Japanese license

If “you” ride a bike, I guess.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I am sick and tired of cyclists on sidewalks in Tokyo coming up behind me while I am walking with or without my young kids and not using their bicycle 'bell' to warn of their approach, my kids who are Japanese tell me that is the custom in japan - how damned moronic is it not to warn pedestrians of your approaching? I refuse to move out of the way for such selfish cyclists.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Cyclists should be licensed not the vehicle, anyone riding a bicycle should be required to wear a hi-vis vest with their individual licence number front and back. Then they can ride legally any bike. Also should be insured. That way the minority who break the rules can be identified and prosecuted and not must ride off unidentified.

That'd be fun on a hot summer's day when popping to the conveni.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

You'll see this mostly, not only, on fund raising days when they're out to make their quotas. Police are then seen everywhere, then once their quota is met, they disappear. I really question what they do on the other days.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Reckless,

Awesome comments as always.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I rode my bicycle to work for more than ten years. Let me tell you there are some terrible cyclist in Japan. The most common is the Ojisan riding his bicycle in the street during morning rush hour traffic. His excuse is that the law says that bicycles must use the roads, except like most people he forgets the second part of the law, except when it impedes traffic or is a danger to the rider or others. That one Ojisan was responsible for more than one 1 km traffic jam. I saw a woman riding down hill doing about 40kph and hit a car head-on because she couldn't stop, the good thing about this is that the car stopped before she hit it. She hit it hard and went for a ride in an ambulance. People sometimes make bad judgement calls on bicycles, but sometimes they do it repeatedly. I believe that those who willfully and knowingly break the law are who this targets, the rest Darwin will take care of.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Ticketing cyclists who violate cycling laws could be a cash cow for Japan. On a daily basis, I see numerous violations that defy common sense. Just walking the 800 meters from my house to the train station, I'll see multiple cyclists putting their and others' lives in danger. In all my years here, I've just never gotten used to how many people cycle with seemingly no regard for anyone's safety, including their own. I cycle a lot, follow the rules of the road and can honestly say that when I have issues it's typically with other cyclists rather than cars.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

macvJuly 16  06:18 am JST

I am sick and tired of cyclists on sidewalks in Tokyo coming up behind me while I am walking with or without my young kids and not using their bicycle 'bell' to warn of their approach, my kids who are Japanese tell me that is the custom in japan - how damned moronic is it not to warn pedestrians of your approaching? I refuse to move out of the way for such selfish cyclists.

Cyclists are not supposed to use their bells unless it's an emergency and wanting to get someone quickly is not the same as it being an emergency. The bigger issue is why are they on the pavement anyway? It's a huge misconception to think that a cyclist is safer on the pavement than the road and numerous studies have shown this to be untrue for a variety of reasons. If you can't safely cycle on the road, obey the rules of the road and not cause problems for others, then you shouldn't be cycling.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

 I cycle a lot, follow the rules of the road and can honestly say that when I have issues it's typically with other cyclists rather than cars.

I bike 8000 kms a year on average and can honestly say that while I occasionally have "issues' with cyclists I am much more concerned about about the issues I often have with drivers of trucks and cars - namely going to fast, blowing through red lights, tailgating, and passing much too closely. These are issues that kill people.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Even if the bicycle comes to a full stop, if the rider prevents another vehicle from proceeding through an intersection it becomes a traffic offense."

I'm confused. Surely when a car comes to a complete stop, like at a stop sign, it also prevents another vehicle from proceeding. Also, I can think of several intersections on my commute where the roads are so narrow that it doesn't matter where you stop, a car isn't going to get past. Unless they cross into the other lane, which isn't unheard of.

ignoring a traffic signal

They rarely pull car drivers over for that, so why bicycles?

not coming to a full stop when so required

By a police officer, or a traffic signal? See point above.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

yokohamaridesJuly 17  10:30 am JST

I bike 8000 kms a year on average and can honestly say that while I occasionally have "issues' with cyclists I am much more concerned about about the issues I often have with drivers of trucks and cars - namely going to fast, blowing through red lights, tailgating, and passing much too closely. These are issues that kill people.

I understand what you're saying and agree that getting hit by a car or truck is likely going to cause more physical damage to you than if you're hit by another cyclist however, I'm only speaking to my experience. I cycle as much if not more than you, according to what you've stated as your yearly average, and I've always ridden assuming that cars not only can but are actively trying to hit me. That sounds a bit paranoid for sure but it's a way that I've managed to keep safe all these years. Additionally, I find cars and trucks more predictable even when they're breaking the law. They're doing it in a way that I've long come to expect; blowing through red lights, changing lanes with no signals, etc. The thing is that they're big and generally visible so I can see them without any trouble. It's not the same with cyclists who are on the pavement and then suddenly popping off onto the road right in front of me or coming at me, with no lights or reflective clothing and making me decide if I should go further into traffic to avoid them while they're merrily cycling along in the wrong direction, or if I should stick closer to the curb and force them on the outside. I've not yet encountered a car going the wrong way down a street and then turning right into me whereas that's happened numerous times with cyclists.

At the end of the day, it's not really an either or situation. Just because cars can hurt you doesn't mean that bad cyclists can't. If both are going to be using the roads then both should have safety rules/laws they are obliged to follow and fines and punishments meted out when they don't. Japanese city roads are narrow and crowded and there's not much room for mistakes, no matter who's making them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@toolonggone Cyclists are not supposed to use their bells unless it's an emergency and wanting to get someone quickly is not the same as it being an emergency.

If that is a law then it is idiotic and should ignored and broken. If there was law stating pedestrians must smoke while walking I would break that too. I heard a rumor that only certain types of people can ride on sidewalks, can anyone let me know what is that rule or law?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Threats of stricter rules and more severe punishments are not going to cut it. Like other posters have observed, enforcement of the laws is the only way and that is and has been since time immemorial totally lacking. Put more uniforms on the street. Only that can lead to some success.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The cyclist is the best thing in Japan has when it comes to moving from A to B,all those stinking cars belching out poisonous gases , if the infrastructure was adapted to suit cyclists then all would be well , take the Netherlands for example.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If there's no Olympics, cyclists go vack to your old ways

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites