Experts discuss how to improve bike riding etiquette in Tokyo


The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department this week convened a meeting with experts to help guide a campaign to improve bike riding etiquette.

Attending the meeting were a number of transportation experts, academics and journalists, TBS reported.

Beginning in January, new rules took effect that are designed to keep bike riders on the left side of the road. Tokyo is also looking into setting up special color-coded lanes for cyclists.

The National Police Agency is planning to toughen rules for sidewalk cyclists in order to cut back on the number of accidents involving bicycles colliding with pedestrians.

According to police, the consistently high rate of collisions in recent years has caused them to consider restricting the areas where cyclists can ride their bicycles.

Along with the proposed restrictions, police are also hoping to introduce safe riding education schemes, to crack down on drunk cycling and to eventually introduce more dedicated cycling lanes on busy streets.

The NPA said that police officers will issue warnings to cyclists seen riding on sidewalks or riding in a reckless manner, such as using cell phones or iPods while on their bikes, TBS reported.

With the exception of children (under 13) and elderly people (over 70), cyclists will be encouraged to ride on roads rather than sidewalks, the NPA said. In so doing, cyclists need to understand that they have to observe traffic regulations the same as drivers.

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Dangerous and stupid no light at night riders should be fined ¥20,000 cash on the spot or ¥50,000 by the next day. Send the accrued funds to Tohoko.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

So these are experts who actually cycle in and around Tokyo or just a bunch of old men who think they are experts?

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Here's an idea: Instead of suggesting people "develop better etiquette" they be told to "obey the laws in place, or else be punished". Suggesting that obeying a law is simply good manners, then doing little or nothing when people do NOT obey the law is a big part of many problems here.

As I've said before, put out MASS advertising for the next month with the distinctly clear message that from April there will be no tolerance and any violation of the new laws will be met with fines and/or other punishments. Plain and simple. It'll require a lot of police to enforce it and fill out paper work and what not, especially at first, but gradually more people will follow the 'etiquette' better than they are now, and there will be less accidents as a result.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Forget it! Give away free helmets for children, and save lives.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

smith, that makes so much sense that almost sure the "experts" never thought about it :) no punishment, nobody will care. fine them, in 2 months you'll see huge improvement

2 ( +3 / -1 )

One big problem is that most people are completely unaware of that there are any laws they have to obey when cycling. Whilst ignorance is no defence there needs to a major campaign to educate people so that they know what they can and cannot do. That has to be accompanied by a crackdown by the police with a zero tolerance policy on any will take time but that is the only way people will change their behaviour.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"According to police, the consistently high rate of collisions in recent years has caused them to consider restricting the areas where cyclists can ride their bicycles."

Ridiculous--now they are restricted, by heavy traffic, both on the road and on the "sidewalks," if we can call them sidewalks.

Japan is lucky there are so many cyclists commuting to school and work. Imagine the pollution if all these cyclists were driving.

I'm glad this is focused only on Tokyo. Upcountry, it is suicidal to try and bike on the road--the drivers are maniacs!

And about iPods, actually MP3-players would be more correct, this is discriminatory against cyclists. Drivers can do it, pedestrians can do it, everyone it seems but bicyclists. What's the point?

Tokyo should be trying to accommodate bicycles, with bike lanes, more, convenient, and free parking, not harass them. Short-sighted policies as usual are the norm.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

In Kanagawa where I live, I find that cars try to get as close to me as possible at times to intimidate me. It is cruel and dangerous. There are so few sidewalks, that one must ride in the street. There are also a lot of one way streets, and I am not going to take the long route around if I can take a much shorter ride going in the wrong direction on the street. What about people riding with an umbrella? That has been illegal for a long time, but I have never seen it enforced.

One thing I feel is racists is that I have a Gaijin last name and it is written on my bike. Why is my bike singled out illegally parked with hundreds of other bikes and taken away by the bike patrol truck? Then they put a piece of paper on the ground and has written on it ichidai removed!!!!! It has happened more than once and I have to pay to get my bike back.

Also, in my town, I can park my bike outside an atm machine, go in and use it and come out, and some old man has just put a ticket on it. Get a clue!!!

I am sorry I am ranting about bikes, but it makes me angry.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

On the spot fines.....

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Remember as a car driver that if a cyclist comes down a one way street and hits you (the car driver) then you are 50% at fault.....

0 ( +2 / -2 )

These so called experts can begin by having the police get on the roads. In my neighborhood the police always cycle on the sidewalks and have gone so far as to stop me and friends of mine to tell us to get on the sidewalks when we've been cycling on the road. I always wear a helmet and bright clothing when I cycle, as do my friends. We ride on the left side and obey traffic lights and signs. I seem to know more than many police about the cycling laws too since I've been directed to ride my bike on sidewalks that aren't designated as cycling sidewalks - and I'm neither under 13 nor over 70 and wouldn't be mistaken for either.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I understand the hesitation towards riding on the road but all studies show that it is not safer to cycle on sidewalks because you end up taking more chances and being less aware of your surroundings, in addition to the inherent lack of predictability in pedestrian behavior. Anyone interested can do the research themselves since I've posted it more than once already on this site.

If you get hit by a car you may get injured but that is not a reason to ride on the sidewalks and put pedestrians at risk. All behavior carries some risk. The more cyclists get on the roads and obey the laws while doing so the more used to cyclists drivers will be. If you can't be bothered obeying the laws because of the inconvenience it might cause you, then maybe you should consider walking. If you can't be bothered obeying the laws because you're too scared to ride where you should, then maybe you should consider walking.

At the end of the day, whatever decisions are made regarding cyclists in Japan, none of it will matter if the Mamachari Battalion don't like it. It'll be like the last time a decision was made to limit cyclists to one child with an adult until the mothers got up in arms and said it was inconvenient so the government backpedaled - pun intended. If the mothers rode safely, helmeted their supposedly precious cargo, only passed when one side was absolutely clear, didn't ring their bells to get past and generally respected that sidewalks are for pedestrians so they shouldn't do things to inconvenience them, I could almost accept their riding on sidewalks, almost.

The other thing the government could but will never do is to correctly apportion blame when accidents do occur. If a cyclist is going the wrong way, be it on a one way or two way street, and an accident occurs because of that, the cyclist, not the driver of the car, should be held accountable. They should be held accountable anytime their actions result in an accident.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

mitoguitarman: While many kids do cycle to school I'm not sure how lucky that is for Japan. If they weren't cycling they'd likely be walking. As it is, when they do cycle they rarely do so in a safe or courteous manner. I cycle everyday and have really come to hate most cyclists since living here because they generally seem lack to any common sense or common courtesy. As for people cycling to work, from my experience most people are actually cycling to train station cycle parking lots not to work. I do cycle to work and am always amused at how this shocks so many people, as if 12 kilometers were the other side of the moon. The majority of cyclists in Japan are going to school, the store or the station.

Don't get me wrong. I do think it's great for people to cycle and would encourage it more if it weren't for the problems I've stated. If you ask me, cyclists in Tokyo aren't harassed nearly enough. Pretty much every time I walk down a sidewalk I have to move for some rude maniac tearing along as if no one else mattered. Don't even get me started on the umbrellas, cell phones, double riders, etc. If they were seriously harassed they wouldn't be able to do those things so often and in such great numbers with impunity.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If no one enforces the traffic laws then people will flout them with impunity. I do not have a vehicle so most of my travelling is done by train and on foot. Every day I see numerous cyclists ignoring traffic lights, riding like a numbskull on the pavement weaving in and out of pedestrians with scant regard for the safety of themselves or others. I am not on foot patrol in the street yet I see these things happening. What I dont see is the local police enforcing the law in any shape or form. That is the root of the problem, and I cannot see that you need a commitee to come to the same conclusion.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Dedicated bike lanes and stricter enforcement is the solution. All bike riders (maybe with the exception of kids) now they are doing the wrong thing cruising between pedestrians on the zebra crossings. There are even bike lanes there with little pictures of bikes painted on them. I know there are a lot of inaka people having moved to Tokyo but come on. You don't speed away on your mamachari where people are walking. And what makes the 70+ ones elegible for sidewalk riding? If they are too shaky (they all are) to handle the bike where there are cars, they sure as hell are not better at handling bikes among unprotected pedestrians.

Bicycle culture in Japan is a good example of the selfishness on these islands.

1 ( +2 / -1 )


Many good points there. Especially about the unpredictability of the sidewalk vs. riding with cars. Agree totally.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Ambrosia: Excellent posts, and I agree with you and have said a lot of the same points in the past -- especially about the 'mamachari patrol' (nice!). On top of there being zero tolerance the government and police HAVE to stop backpedaling on laws in favor of the convenience whined about by said Mamas.

Oh, and another fine that should be added: a fine for having a 'patoro-ru chuu' sign on the back of bicycles when not actually on patrol. Last night I popped into a local izakaya for a bit to see a bunch of middle-aged women having an enkai (I assume their kids were the ones enrolled in local schools who had just graduated elementary school since they were all in the same PTA group). Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, save that there were a dozen or so bicycles parked outside, so they were probably riding home, and most of those had the 'on patrol' signs on them. Hell, I have a friend who's kid graduated from highschool five years ago who still has one, quite damaged by weather and time, still on. I don't think it's scaring anyone (save the people trying to avoid them on sidewalks!).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Bicycle culture in Japan is a good example of the selfishness on these islands." YES!! T.I.J.! It`s Chinatown, Jake... forget about it! Ok, all the dips riding without lights at night that I see while walking around my neighbourhood... I shake my head and sigh!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Punishment is lost of right to use bicycle seat.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

drunk cycling?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

laws not etiquette, enforce them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

tax dollars hard at work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Etiquette? So if I drive the wrong way up a motorway, is that bad manners? We're not talking about eating with your mouth open here, we're talking about road safety. All road users should be subject to the law, period. And local and national governments should get off their butts and start improving roads so that cyclists and other road users can co-exist more safely. How long is it going to take them?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Bicycle culture in Japan is a good example of the selfishness on these islands."

Driving cars is the ultimate in selfishness--using a huge machine to carry a little body around, when a low-impact bicycle would do a much better job. A bicycle is the most efficient means of transportation, and should be encouraged as much as possible. It seems many posters have never been to countries where cycling is a way of life, eg. Holland, Switzerland. If city planners (probably non-existent in Japan) looked at more advanced countries as examples, they could see how to use space effectively. Banning all private cars from the city center would be a great step in the right direction.

Ambrosia: School kids are not allowed to ride to school unless they live too far away to walk.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

How to improve the bike riding etiquette in Japan? Allow me to suggest one huge step forward:

If you approach someone from behind, use the ring bell!!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Where there are dedicated bike lanes, I've found that quite a lot of cyclists don't use them anyway.

I have no objection to bikes using regular pavements, but they should slow down when passing pedestrians, rather than bombing past.

cyclists should also be instantly fined for riding through red lights (I see that happening all the time) and wearing headphones while riding - depriving yourself of an essential sense while going fast enough to cause serious injury is completely reckless and stupid.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Bike riding etiquette? How about walking on the streets etiquette?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Where there are dedicated bike lanes, I've found that quite a lot of cyclists don't use them anyway"

That's because pedestrians walk on them without even looking to see if any bikes are coming.

frontandcentre - Yer back!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Attending the meeting were a number of transportation experts, academics and journalists, TBS reported.

Hmm....something misssing on a cycling panel. I wonder what.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


You're right. Pedestrians can be woefully ignorant here as well, but from my own observations I think that the cyclists are much more frequent offenders the other way round. So many times there's a completely empty bike path, but they cycle on the pedestrian section regardless, often weaving in and out between people walking. It's pure thoughtlessness and lack of consideration.

And the point about pedestrians is, pedestrians don't normally travel fast enough cause serious injury to anyone they might come into contact with. Cyclists, however, certainly do - so although it's still wrong for pedestrians to ignore red lights (on a crossing for example) the potential consequences are far less serious than when cyclists on the road ignore reds - which is something I see every single day.


1 ( +1 / -0 )

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