Cyclists warned on new left side rule

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Many cyclists may be unaware that a ban on riding against the flow of traffic will take effect by the end of the year to curb an increasing number of bicycle-related accidents, police warned Friday.

Under the revised Road Traffic Law, which will take effect by Dec. 13, cyclists who don’t keep to the left-hand side of the road may face up to 30 days in prison or a fine of ¥20,000, the police said.

Cyclists are currently allowed to ride in narrow side lanes also used by pedestrians in the absence of sidewalks, and they can ride in both directions. However, the revision made June 14 stipulates that bicyclists must now stay on the left side of the road at all times.

Cyclists will still be allowed to ride in either direction on sidewalks that permit cyclists.

According to National Police Agency data, 3,956 cyclists nationwide were given warnings in 2011, including 17 that reportedly led to fines.

  • http://www.sheldonthinks.com/ andrew Sheldon

    That revision won’t stop be crashing into elderly people dressed in black at 2am; but ok, understood. Govt prescription instead of common sense. I saw a Japanese student riding his bicycle on a narrow road, before a bus overtook him. He was talking to someone from one hand, and holding the handle bar with another. I guess stupidity is ahead of the law…or is that covered?

  • Brian Southwick

    As a long-term resident of the country and someone who commutes 70k daily by bike, I know the real danger to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists comes from the latter category of road user. I am reminded of this every day, whether in the city or the suburbs. Drivers routinely demonstrate utter disregard for traffic laws and lack of courtesy for others on the road. The cops should crack down on scofflaw cyclists, to be sure, but if they are genuinely concerned about road safety, the best and most obvious place to start is the nation’s drivers.

  • Ron NJ

    Is this going to be enforced with the same (absolute lack of) veracity as the “don’t riding while holding an umbrella”, “don’t ride on pedestrian-only sidewalks”, and “don’t put two people on one mamachari” ordinances? Speaking of sidewalks, how are you even supposed to tell which sidewalks allow cyclists? As far as I’ve seen, pretty much every marked crosswalk in the country has a lane for bicycles attached to the crosswalk, which runs directly into the sidewalk – bit of a mixed message, that.
    Also 17 fines out of 3956 violations means that only in 0.004% of cases was anyone actually punished in a meaningful manner – no wonder people flagrantly ignore such traffic laws!

  • Jackson Lo

    Having grown up in Tokyo, lived in other major cycling cities for at least 4+ years each (Berlin, San Francisco, etc.) Lots of cycling in the last few years, but they don’t pay the same licensing, taxes and training on and for the road. It’s a privilege, not entitlement and beyond your local jimoto, there should be consideration that urban pedestrian traffic isn’t buit to accommodate further…cyclists should pay substantial congestion fees–notice when ‘foreign’ logic is applied to Japan for anything, it doesn’t work?…nor should the notion that bicycles should be on equal footing and given automatic rights.

    • blimp

      I think very few cyclists are asking for the same amount of lanes with the same dimensions as the car lanes. However there are quite a few of us that are asking for at least a bike lane that is a meter or two wide, preferably cordoned off so that no cars can park on it.

      I hope you are aware that our normal income taxes are also used for new roads as well as maintenance.

  • EQ

    I think that it’s a good idea to limit bicycle traffic to the left side of the road, just like all other vehicles. Having bicycles on both sides of the road has become too dangerous. But allowing bicycle traffic on sidewalks is a mistake. Sidewalks are supposed to be for pedestrians. That’s why they are called side”walks”…Now, we have people riding their bicycles on sidewalks at full speed. It’s already hard for a still young person like me to get out of their way, so you can imagine just how hard it is for an Ojisan or an Obachan…Anyway – Why do pedestrians have to get out of the way of cyclists on sidewalks?!?

    • Jon Miner

      The left side of the road depends on which way you are going. There will still be bikes on both sides of the road, but they should be going in opposite directions. All the bikes on one side of the road should be going in the same direction. All the bikes on the other side of the road should be going in the opposite direction.

      • EQ

        Agreed.

  • Keith

    As a British cyclist I was amazed that cycling against the flow was ever allowed in Japan, it isn’t allowed here.