Bicycle Rules in Japan

Photo: drpavloff on Flickr

Bicycle Rules in Japan

Sanny Soedjatmiko Hartanto

Do you like cycling? Japan has some unique rules for cycling that must be obeyed. The Japanese government thinks that it is not only for your own safety, but it is also for the other people's safety in Japan.

Ride on Sidewalks


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Photo : Toshihiro Gamo on Flickr
Cases when this rule is allowed:
1. Within an area with road signs or other signposts indicating permission to do so.
2. The rider is under 13 years old.
3. In unavoidable circumstances due to roadway or traffic conditions.

Wearing a Helmet


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Photo : Chad Copeland on Flickr
This is the basic rule for children. All parents should instruct their children (under 13 years old) to wear helmets when riding a bicycle. For children above 13 years old, it is okay not to wear helmet.

Safety Rules


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Photo : V.T. Polywoda on Flickr
1. On roadways, the riders should keep to the left side.
2. On sidewalks, the riders should yield to pedestrians and go slowly.
3. Drunken bicycle riding is prohibited.
4. Riding with someone else on a bicycle is prohibited, except for riding with a child under six years old.
5. Riding side by side on bicycle is prohibited, except if there is a sign “riding side by side is permitted”.
6. Bicycle riders should have headlights and rear lights during evening hours.
7. Obey the traffic lights.
8. Bicycle riders should not talk on mobile phone.
9. Bicycle riders should not use an umbrella.
10. Riding without a bell is usually accepted, while riding at night without a front lamp is strictly prohibited.

The Penalties


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Photo : spinster cardigan on Flickr
1. Drunken riders can get them five years in prison plus 1 million yen fine.
2. Riding with someone else on a bicycle will get you a fine up to 20,000 yen.
3. Riding at night without a headlamp can get you a 50,000 yen fine.
4. Listening to your iPod while riding a bicycle can also get you a 50,000 yen fine.
5. Using an umbrella or mobile phone while riding can get you 3 months in prison or a 50,000 yen fine.
6. 50,000 yen fine for disobeying the traffic lights.
7. You will get up to 20,000 yen fine for riding side by side on bicycles.

Locking your Bike


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Photo : halfrain on Flickr
If you are used to living in a place where there are many thieves, you are probably used to lock up your bicycle with massive chains. Well, it is okay not to lock your bike in Japan, but I recommend you to lock it for safety.

The Experience


Bicycle polo on the streets of Paris.
Photo: Gerald Lau on Flickr

Have you tried riding a bicycle in Japan? How is your experience? In my case,  I can say that the bicycle culture here is much different from my country’s. However, I used to know the Japanese rule and I should obey it although I am a foreigner. Well, there is a good proverb in Japan, “Gou ni ireba, Gou ni shitagae”, which literally means, “Entering the village, obey the village”. So, if you are foreigners living in Japan, you must obey all the rules in Japan although it is different with yours.