Westerners who come to Japan may be taken aback by the sheer numbers of bicycles in use in cities. Equally impressive is the degree to which people load their bicycles with shopping bags, children, boyfriends, and/or garbage bags full of aluminum cans for recycling. And yet, with all this, it’s a rare sight to see anyone besides tiny kids wearing a helmet.

Ehime Prefecture, known for its scenic bike paths and wide use of bicycles for commuting, is hoping to change that by enacting a law instructing cyclists of all ages to wear a helmet, or else.

On 1 July across Ehime Prefecture police and prefectural workers took to the streets to remind residents that the new Bicycle Safety Ordinance requires bicycle riders of all ages to wear a helmet. No penalties have been laid out for violating this ordinance, but Ehime Governor Tokihiro Nakamura is hoping that citizens will gradually learn to love headgear while they ride regardless.

The prefecture is also at work to curb bike traffic on sidewalks, which is bad news for pedestrians who enjoy taking shoulders to the face at 15km/h.

Japanese public news outlet NHK covered the new ordinance in Matsuyama City, Chiba Prefecture. Going to a local business, they found one worker making his commute by bike but not wearing a helmet. When asked why he had forgone the his headgear, the man said, “I didn’t know about the regulations. I don’t have a helmet so I’m not sure what to do.”

They then headed over to the prefectural office where they found some of the staff there also riding in without helmets. Catching one 55 year-old employee they asked why he wasn’t obeying the new law, to which he said, “I knew about the ordinance, but I left my helmet at home.”

While this will undoubtedly be a long-term campaign, Gov. Nakamura should be congratulated on taking steps to protect the citizens of his prefecture from serious injuries. So next time you’re in Ehime, remember to wear your helmet or else… a cop will tell you that you should wear one… possibly through slightly brisk tones… it’ll depend on his or her mood.

Source: NHK (Japanese)

*FUN FACT: Amazon.com has 2,981 bicycle helmets available, whereas Amazon Japan only has 34 for sale!