New national cycle network program aims to promote tourism


The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry will set up a system designating certain roads as recommended cycling routes to help spur development of the bicycle tourism industry.

Certified roads will get subsidies for improvements such as additional signposts, bicycle parking lots and toilets, ministry officials said Monday. The system will begin in fiscal 2016.

Dubbed the “national cycle route,” the program aims to offer cyclists a safe and comfortable environment while helping to promote regional tourism and economic revitalization, the officials said.

An increasing number of leisure-seekers are using bicycles to visit sightseeing spots. For instance, a 75-km cycling route crossing the Seto Inland Sea between Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures saw users roughly double from fiscal 2008 to around 82,000 in fiscal 2013 thanks to the fine view of the sea and the existence of attractive roadside commercial facilities.

The officials say there are some 30 cycling lanes of 20 km or longer that are potential candidates for government certification.

Although details of the certification have yet be worked out, the ministry plans to examine whether there are restrooms at certain intervals and whether the route takes in scenic spots or historical sites. The assessment may also look at the availability of route maps and website information.

Routes should also have very few traffic accidents and offer bicycle rental and repair services or they may not get certification, the officials said.