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The Blind Spot of Japanese Bicycle Riders

As a cycling portal and NOT a tour company, I feel value in sometimes introducing the reality of everyday cycling in Tokyo, and in Japan. Most visitors will not encounter or witness what I will write below during the stay. It's for sure if you ride with Cycle Tokyo! because we'll take you to only the safest places. :-)
However, bike accidents and crazy cyclists do exist in Tokyo,so it may be interesting for people who want to know the real thing.

Here we go...

Since cycling is so big here in Japan, there are issues surrounding the culture that make it to the news.
There was a series of articles recently on Mainichi Newspaper titled "Gin-Rin no Shikaku", which would probably be translated to "The Blind Spot of Cycling"

Mainichi Shinbun: "Gin-Rin no Shikaku" (Japanese) - http://search.mainichi.jp/result?p=%E9%8A%80%E8%BC%AA%E3%81%AE%E6%AD%BB%E8%A7%92&st=s&t=&f=2&d=2010&d=1&d=1&dd=2010&dd=1&dd=1&dt=30&sr=n&l=15&y=

The message behind the series of articles (as I see it) is to prompt cyclists (not just hobby cyclists but mama/papa bicycle riders as well) to take bicycle riding seriously as a member of the traffic infrastructure, regardless of it's easy-means-of- transportation nature. The articles warn cyclists that bicycles have no extraterritorial rights, and are subject of traffic violation tickets and liability in some cases.

This "warning" arises from the current situation with local cycing in Japan.

  • Insurance enrollment is not mandatory for bicycles in Japan. Insurance companies are quitting bike insurance because of low enrollment.

  • There are accident cases between bicycles and pedestrians, the bicycle is at fault, but the cyclist does not have enough economic ability to compensate for damage and in not enrolled in insurance. The offender becomes bankrupt, the victim fails to be compensated.

  • Bikes are unfavorable and likely to become at fault in traffic accident lawsuits against pedestrians, regardless of cause. This is in alignment with cars where pedestrians positioned as the weak.

  • Bikes were historically regulated very loosely. This resulted in cyclists not abiding traffic rules. Bicycles can sometimes be seen riding on the opposite sides of the road, running red lights, and riders checking email on their bikes. Due to the increase in bicycle accidents, the police are gradually becoming strict in regulating bikes, and bikes are beginning to get ticketed for violations. (which unfortunately comes as a suprise to many bicycle riders !) It's not a dumb thing in Japan to clarify that bikes do have to follow traffic regulations, because some crazy riders don't follow the most basic of rules.How sad.

No worries though. All you have to do is follow traffic rules, be aware of other traffic, don't misunderstand that you're the king of the road, make sure your liability insurance (or travel insurance) covers bike accidents, be aware that pedestrians have the right of way, and finally wear a helmet. All that common sense, and you'll be safe enough, a lot safer than the majority of local bike riders in Tokyo.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 3, 2010 12:21 AM.

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