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Regarding the Oct. 26 article “Reckless cyclists face crackdown,” I don’t see that stricter enforcement of existing bicycle safety laws, or levying fines, or even banning bicycles from sidewalks altogether necessarily effectively address the problem of accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians.

The main problem is that Japanese — pedestrians, cyclists, or motor vehicle drivers — do not habitually pay much attention to their surroundings, or to what they are doing. Maybe it is the cultural feature of amae, or indulgence, at work. If everyone indulges each other and looks out for their fellows no matter what stupid things we do on the streets, then such a system appears to have built-in safety, and works. But it only appears that way, nothing more.

Japanese streets are like a giant pachinko pinball game where uncontrolled pieces practically bounce off each other, unaware. The level of individual responsibility it would take to ensure that most people pay attention to themselves and what they are doing and to their surroundings would require a cultural revolution here that isn’t about to happen. So that leaves authorities only with appeals to greater politeness and consideration by cyclists, motorists and pedestrians for each other, with threats of fines.

I don’t look forward to being forced to ride my bicycle on the street with vehicular traffic. That feels more dangerous even than the threat of cyclists to pedestrians on the sidewalk, and I worry lest we see it proved true.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

grant piper

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