Qualified to ride on the road?


As a daily cyclist in the suburbs of Tokyo and as a regular cyclist when I lived in England, I can comment on the Feb. 5 Japan Times article “Cyclists who flout the law face charges.”

First, I must criticize the poor use of important terminology: “Pavement” and its U.S. equivalent, “sidewalk,” mean one thing only: the edge of a road set aside for the use of pedestrians. Thus the statement in the article that “in principle, they must ride on the pavement and not on the sidewalk” makes no sense and is thus confusing to both pedestrians and cyclists.

So, the question is should cyclists be allowed to ride willy-nilly on the pavement/sidewalk, often to the danger of pedestrians, or should they be confined to the road? This point also includes those cyclists who dangerously carry one or two children plus shopping!

In England there is no such confusion. The traffic law is quite unambiguous: A bicycle is a vehicle for the transportation of a person and is to be ridden on the public highway and not on the pavement. It is an offense to ride on the pavement. Once on the highway, riders are subject to the laws appertaining to the highway. Those laws are the same for all other vehicles: Keep to the left, give hand signals when turning to the left or right, stop at red traffic signals, in poor visibility show a white light to the front and a red one to the rear (horses too!), drive within the speed limits, etc. The police are most rigorous. It is no wonder that the United Kingdom is judged one of the safest countries in which to drive on the road.

Japan must enforce its traffic laws nationwide. Teach cyclists how to use the road safely, teach other drivers to respect cyclists and, perhaps, provide for a “driving license” for cyclists. Those not qualified/licensed to ride should get off the road and walk!

Editor’s note: In American-style English, which The Japan Times uses, “pavement” generally refers to a road — not to a sidewalk.

paul gaysford

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.