The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office will start pressing criminal charges against cyclists who repeatedly ignore red lights amid a growing number of traffic accidents involving bicycles.
The decision, announced Monday, takes effect this month. Until now, Tokyo cyclists have rarely been charged for riding through red lights, but now they will be fined if found guilty.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the number of traffic accidents in Tokyo involving bicycles exceeds the national average despite an overall decline in road accidents in the metropolitan area.
One of the transgressions prosecutors plan to clamp down on involves riders who ignore traffic signals while talking on a mobile phone amid a traffic jam. They will not press charges on first-time offenders, but second or more offenders will face indictment, the prosecutor’s office said.
Last year, 18,220 accidents in Tokyo involved bicycles. Of those in which a cyclist was at fault, accidents caused by ignoring a red light made up 9.6 percent, according to police statistics.
In May, a rider who allegedly ignored a red light at an intersection in Tokyo collided with a light motor scooter, whose driver was seriously injured, the police said.