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50-year-old cyclist dies after being hit by car in tunnel

40 Comments

A 50-year-old man riding a bicycle died after he was hit from behind by a car in a tunnel in Ena, Gifu Prefecture, on Monday.

According to police, the accident occurred at around 9:40 a.m. in the two-lane tunnel along National Route 257. Police said the cyclist, Tomoyuki Tsunogai, who lives in Nagoya, was riding with a companion between the road and a walkway when he was hit by the car. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Tsunogai’s 52-year-old companion, who was riding ahead of him, was also knocked off his bike and suffered an elbow injury. The 27-year-old male driver of the car was uninjured.

Police said Tsunogai and his friend were cycling companions who often made long rides together. They were on their way to Nagano Prefecture when the accident occurred.

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40 Comments
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As a cyclist in Japan, this scares me. There aren't enough wide shoulders, but especially with older tunnels there's no way to change anything.

Please drive carefully and notice cylists

15 ( +15 / -0 )

@CruisinJapan

I totally agree, especially when cyclist ride against traffic. I have no clue why they do this.

-5 ( +7 / -12 )

only the idiots cycle against traffic, it typically mamachari ridden by people with extremely low intelligence, please dont clump them with other cyclists, especially the ones in this news.

Fact of the matter is 1m rule is not well communicated or enforced in Japan, which is crazy especially with the amount of cyclists here., that combined with extremely narrow tunnels that are not always lit properly makes me always avoid tunnels over 30m long... or just drive at the pedestrian part of it , few minutes of slow ride is better than risking your life

12 ( +14 / -2 )

although i do hope the driver is properly punished and goes to jail.. for something like attempted murder.. 10 or so years is good to reflect

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

10 or so years is good to reflect

To reflect on what? That old tunnels are too narrow and possibly difficult to see what's ahead, when the normal speed of cars is at 60 or so? That many of the roads in Japan have blind spots all over the place, higher walls than cars on corners, houses built within inches of the road, etc?

Tunnels in Japan scare the heck out of me when I'm riding my road bike. After having a close call at a tunnel on the way from Atami to Shimoda, last few ones I encountered I went to the nearest train station and on a train.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

These tunnels are always a real horror for cyclists and probably the biggest impediment to more people using bicycles to get around while exploring amazing places like the Chiba coast and Izu.

I usually just just turn on my lights, say a prayer, and try to get it over with ASAP. Many recommended riding in the middle of the lane. “Sharing the road” sounds nice but it doesn’t really work - in tunnels, with no room to spare, it only takes one inconsiderate, impatient, a-hole drivist to kill you.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Drivers in Japan are reckless, inconsiderate, impatient and irresponsible. There is no way I would do any long distance cycling in Japan. I even gave up riding my bike to the station. I had a motor-scooter for the first three months I was in Japan. It was the most terrifying three months of my life. Even driving my car my head is on a 360' swivel with my peripheral vision set at 270'. I had a chuckle about yesterday's article where the Niseko locals were complaining about the foreigners' driving etiquette. I feel sorry for these two riders, but long distance cycling in Japan is a huge gamble and you are gambling with your life.

-3 ( +10 / -13 )

Some of those tunnels are scary enough just driving down. Cycling is a whole different level of scary.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Disillusioned - no, drivers in Japan are not any of those things compared to just about anywhere else in the world. You get the odd idiot, but by and large people are OK.

Did you actually cycle in other countries?

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

I was hit by someone the first time I attempted to ride my bike to work (to Ropponggi, from Katsushika' Ku) and almost made it...not good enough. Instant trip to the hospital, but at least I survived it. Locally, here in Florida, where I have been riding for over fourty years, cyclists are killed almost monthly, many are hit & runs.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Just yesterday night I had an idiot cyclist ride against traffic towards me, in the dark, without lights and in black clothes. Some of them are begging to be hit by oncoming traffic.

What angers me most is that then the car driver gets most of the guilt and penalty. Makes me always wish that these guys fall down a steep hill and break their neck all on their own.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

RIP. as a cyclist here this also scares me. cycling against traffic has been illegal since 2013.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

dear saphire12, as car driver you should be liable for 100% of the fault, always with absolutely no exceptions.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

I'm a roadie too and tunnels scare me. I try to look for bypass roads, but will go through if the tunnel is downhill or I'm going along at a fair rate. I'm also 50, so RIP to the guy and condolences to his family and riding buddy.

I took a look at this and the tunnel is very straight. It's narrow with those useless 50cm pavements on both sides. About 1km, which is long enough to be very dark inside. The road up to it is a steady climb, so they probably weren't going very fast. Going slower means more time in the tunnel and less reaction time for drivers who are upon you in no time. That said, the road was straight enough and they were far enough into the tunnel to suggest serious driver error.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Gifu-ken,+Ena-shi,+%E6%96%B0%E6%9C%A8%E3%83%8E%E5%AE%9F%E3%83%88%E3%83%B3%E3%83%8D%E3%83%AB/@35.3428123,137.4555131,965m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x601cad28070098ef:0xd69811c127d72664!8m2!3d35.349307!4d137.4584585

Regarding cycling safety, I think it would be good to put up signs warning of tunnels ahead and pointing out detour routes. Its a much cheaper and realistic solution than expecting extensive construction work on tunnels. Many roadies are proud of the distance and elevation they ride, so going a longer way is usually not an issue. My own local authority produces a cycling map for tourists that sends them through tunnels instead of near-obvious and more scenic bypass roads. My impression is that the people working in tourism and the police themselves don't cycle and are largely clueless about it.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

1km narrow tunnel.. eugh... nightmare...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I know in Izu and Chiba at least some of the tunnels do have bypass lanes and roads but more often than not they are poorly maintained and sometimes impassable.

In recent years, many prefectures have been making an effort to encourage bike tourism - perhaps, in addition to improving safety, allocating some money to fixing up these tunnel alternatives would make good business sense.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just yesterday night I had an idiot cyclist ride against traffic towards me, in the dark, without lights and in black clothes. Some of them are begging to be hit

Just this morning(and many many other times) I saw a drivist blow through a steady red light. Just last week a drivist in Kamakura passed me at +30 kph while reading a newspaper. Everyday I see drivists watching TV or looking at smartphones while operating their multi-ton vehicles.

There will always be idiots but people driving - because of simple physics and the destructive capability of their vehicle have more of a responsibility to drive with care and consideration. Driving is a privilege, not a right.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

My advice would be for anyone riding a new area to do a "Segment Explore" on Strava along their route. This will show many commonly ridden roads. Doing this near my home will find several non-obvious roads that go around tunnels. Many big tunnels on main roads were built in the 1980s or later once Japan was rich enough for big infrastructure projects. The smaller old roads that had to wind up and down mountainsides with only small tunnels through protruding ridges often still exist.

Google Street View is also a fantastic resource for route planning and can show whether tunnels on your route have a rideable pavement or are actually snow shelters, which are semi-open on one side and are much brighter (safer) inside.

Any long climb with multiple tunnels should be probably avoided altogether. Take a rinko bag and take your bike on the train.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

yokohamarides, I amazed you saw only one.. just me this morning going thru yamate dori from shibuya to meguro , I saw atleast 3-4 cars blowing red at last second , another couple on the phone while driving and one woman swinging on the road with her kid climbing all over her van with no belt ... and that Yamate dori, and in rain.. ( lower visibility ) ...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japan is full of bad and dangerous drivers you must be able to watch traffic to avoid accidents, cell phones have made it even worse, riding a bike Japan is very dangerous

6 ( +7 / -1 )

ADK99 - @Disillusioned - no, drivers in Japan are not any of those things compared to just about anywhere else in the world. You get the odd idiot, but by and large people are OK.

You have no idea what you are talking about! Speeding, running red lights, going straight through stop signs, ignoring pedestrian crossings, kids jumping around in the front seat unrestrained, talking on phones, playing video games, putting on make up, shaving, reading newspapers, watching TV, dump trucks that think they are driving the Les Mans and these are just the ones I see every day. If this is your definition of, "by and large they are ok" you need a new dictionary.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

RIP

Add the fact that many drivers don't put on their lights in the tunnels. I'm often pissed of of such - you can't see there is car behind you quite often...

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"...was riding with a companion between the road and a walkway when he was hit by the car.

They should have been on that walkway, even if it meant they had to walk (difficult in cycling shoes, I know). Due to the straightness of the road through tunnels, requiring perhaps less concentration, drivers are tempted by their stupidphones.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I nearly got killed like this. He paid for everything like bike, 2 operations,and clothes etc. I said if he did that I would accept that accidents just happen and didnt press charges. Still not sure letting him off easy was right or not, especialy later when he truthed up and said he actualy fell asleep in the tunnel and his family already said he was too old to drive.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I never let them off, his insurance anyway will pay everything and then some.. its irresponsible to let them off easy... police and court with no leaway whatsoever.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Those are dangerous scary tunnels. If I couldn't find a road over the tunnel I would walk on the side part and push my bike, which is what I did when I lived in the alps. Also have at least a strong rear light, even a flashing one are good. Strong front light too.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

You can increase safety by covering the back of your bike in reflective tape, assuming that drivers actually turn on their headlights in a tunnel. This alas is not a given.

3M make black reflective tape so you don't have to mess up your beautiful black Canyon or BMC. The best place for reflectors is moving parts, i.e., pedals and crankarms. The black tape is about 1000 yen a meter. If you don't care about the colour, there's much cheaper stuff available, maybe even in the 100 yen shop.

In the dark like tunnels, it's lights and reflectors that matter. Bright colours and hi-viz work best in low light, not in darkness. This video goes into it pretty well. For rear lights, I suspect blinkers are better at gaining attention than constant light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZRXlrJ3Mi0

I doubt you can even safely push a bike along something 50-60cm wide. That's narrower than a mountain bike handlebar.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I doubt you can even safely push a bike along something 50-60cm wide. That's narrower than a mountain bike handlebar.

You can when you push the bike on the road while you walk on the side part plus decreasing your "road width" and less likely to be hit and if you are the bike will be hit first. I did that for the 10 years I lived in the alps. When the side part was wide enough, usually the new tunnels, then I rode on that.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Zichi I don’t know about that... walking the bike in these tunnels would just increase the time you are exposed to danger + the vehicle will close on you much more rapidly.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Last Sunday a driver failed to stop in front of me at a red and last Tuesday in torrential rain, I saw an SUV driver doing more than double the speed limit.The previous day a scooter, on a two lane highway was doing double the limit or more as I was pulling in to the left-the week before same thing in reverse, and was almost sideswiped by a taxi!

Tiredness and impatience along with the keratin glance is making Japan a more dangerous place to drive...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

One problem is that a lot of cyclists don't have tail lights. It should be made law.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

There are some cycling lanes in my town... used as parking spaces for people going into the bank or to buy cigarettes, and with utility poles in the middle of them.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Same age as Mr.Tsunogai, RIP. In my youth I have biked across America and across Japan (Nagaga to Itoigawa, Niigata in a day!) I have ridden through my share of tunnels here, and I am afraid to death of them. I often got off my bike and walked with bike between myself and the road. Japan has some beautiful country side, but to find an area with good cycling without tunnels is getting harder and harder. This is one of the reason I stopped multi-day touring in Japan. In the pass 10 years or so, there has a big boon in road cycling, so as a car driver when I go through a tunnel I drive thinking that there could be a much slower cyclist ahead.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just yesterday night I had an idiot cyclist ride against traffic towards me, in the dark, without lights and in black clothes. Some of them are begging to be hit by oncoming traffic. What angers me most is that then the car driver gets most of the guilt and penalty.

If you have a drive recorder, you can win such a case. Technically, cyclists must also follow the rules of the road. If they are driving the wrong way and with no lights at night, and you can prove (with your drive recorder) that there is no way for you to avoid them, you will win. 100% their fault.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

You almist never win 100pc with japanese stingy insuranc割合過失

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Bugle Boy of Company B: "and you can prove (with your drive recorder) that there is no way for you to avoid them, you will win. 100% their fault."

No, not 100%, even if you can prove it was not your fault. The larger vehicle takes at least part of the blame, every time, even if stationary at a signal light. The only way the driver would walk away without any blame is if the other party admitted full responsibility and they settled without it becoming an official police matter and going to court. In this case, we have a man dead, and that will further increase the amount of blame on the driver.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I've cycled my whole life in London. In 2014, I cycled in Tokyo (and remember, it's the same side of the road). It scared the beh-jaysus out of me. I felt so much safer in London. Drivers in London give you space, I didn't feel that in Tokyo. They used to pass me so close. In fairness, I can only base this on one area of Tokyo, but for me, cycling in Tokyo wasn't great. I hated cycling on the super packed pavements and the roads to me, felt well dodgy. As soon as I got back to London, I really enjoyed my cycling again.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@kohakuebisu

Thanks of the link. I just looked at that road on Google maps. Man alive, that's insane. No way would I cycle on that. I'd be on the tiny pavement (if possible) or walking it with the bike.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Disillusioned - Strava tells me I have cycled about 2,000km this year, combination of commuting in Tokyo and weekend country rides. So I'm on the road often enough to have an opinion.

All of the things you mentioned are undoubtedly true of some people (I'd suggest the minority) but are also true of drivers in other countries to various degrees.

Mysteriously, despite the apparent lawless Mad Max-style conditions some people think are prevalent on the roads here, all the accident statistics I can find place Japan at roughly the same accident/fatality rate as other developed countries (and considerably lower than some).

So, in comparison to which countries are Japanese driver so dangerous?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@ADK99 I have done 3000+ this year already which I hope makes me qualified too and I agree with you fully.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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