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Cycling traffic violations hit a record high of over 20,000 last year in Japan and the rising trend appears to be continuing this year as more people turn to bikes amid the coronavirus pandemic, police data showed Friday.

Violations hit 22,859 in 2019 and have already reached 12,839 in the first half of this year, the National Police Agency said.

It warned that of the 427 cyclists who died in accidents in 2019, 329 of them, or 77 percent, did so when violating traffic rules. More than half the violations, or 12,472, involved ignoring traffic lights, it said.

The public appears to lack awareness that bicycle riders are subject to traffic rules just as vehicle drivers are, an agency official said.

The tally of cyclists’ violations topped 10,000 in 2015, when traffic regulations were tightened to require that serious offenders take a traffic safety course, and has since trended upward, according to agency data.

A police officer speaks to a cyclist delivering food in Nagoya on Sept. 10. | KYODO
A police officer speaks to a cyclist delivering food in Nagoya on Sept. 10. | KYODO

In light of the growing popularity of cycling amid the virus outbreak, including for home delivery services and commuting, police are bolstering crackdowns, particularly on dangerous cycling.

The traffic law says cyclists aged 14 or older who ignore police warnings over dangerous cycling twice over three years must take a three-hour safety course or pay a fine.

By type of violation, crossing a railroad after the gates close came second, with 5,931 cases in 2019.

Other violations include 1,555 cases of failure to stop at a stop sign, 1,024 of breaking rules such as using earphones or an umbrella while cycling, while 109 involved cycling while drunk.

Earlier this month, the Aichi Prefectural Police called on an operator of Uber Eats food delivery service in Japan to follow traffic rules, after receiving many witness reports of cyclists delivering food ignoring traffic lights. The police also asked food deliverers to ride bicycles safely, including avoiding riding in the center of the street.

The prefectural police officers patrolled Nagoya’s central district on Sept. 10 during lunchtime and issued a warning to 52 cyclists who ignored traffic lights or rode with earphones on. Sixteen of them were food deliverers, according to the police.

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