Bicycle in Japan
🚲 Sightseeing Cycling the Archipelago
Bicycle is probably the Japanese people’s favorite transportation method, especially in large cities, where it offers an interesting alternative to public transportation. Generally, each member of a Japanese family owns a bicycle they use for the short daily trips such as: cycling from home to the station, sending kids to school, grocery shopping in the neighborhood, going to the gym, etc. Moreover, each bicycle has a unique license number and the owners’ name is registered by the police.
All infrastructures for safe cycling are available and Tokyo often ranks among the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. This sustainable transportation is also a good way to enjoy the journey to your destination, and to discover unexpected landscapes or neighborhoods.
Renting a bicycle in Japan is easy, as rental shops can be found throughout the country, especially near the train stations. For longer distances, electric-assisted bicycles can be very convenient and help spare efforts.
Cycling rules in Japan
Since 1 June 2015, the Japanese law on urban circulation was amended with particular focus on cycling. Some of these rules seem common sense, but make sure to follow them:
- Always keep on the left side of the road (traffic direction in Japan);
- Do not cycle on the sidewalk, except if a signpost allows it. However, this rule is seldom enforced by the Japanese themselves and does not apply to children under 13 years old;
- Follow the driving rules: traffic lights and stop signposts (in Japanese: 止まれ tomare); adjust the speed according to the environment and alight your bike on a crowded street;
- Keep focused and alert: Do not cycle drunk, or under drugs or medicine that could impair attention, and do not use earphones;
- Steer with both hands on the handlebar and do not hold an umbrella or a phone while cycling;
- Yield to pedestrians, therefore do not use pedestrian crossings to stop;
- Make sure children under 13 years old wear a helmet (mandatory helmet for everyone starting April 2023);
- Use equipment for night cycling (functioning brakes, bell and lights);
- Use the indicated parking lots in the streets or park in a bicycle parking.
Tourists are less likely to be controlled by the police. For your information, any bicycle that was improperly parked can be towed and fine for a minor infraction amount to ¥5,000 (~US$33.71). A dangerous cycling can be considered a crime with a fine up to 5 million Yens (~US$33,710) and / or a 5 years imprisonment sentence.