A Tokyo court has ruled that a cyclist must pay 47 million yen (US$459,000) to the family of a 75-year-old women he collided with and killed in 2010.

The pensioner, one Mrs. Mitsuhiro Azuma, was struck by the cyclist on a pedestrian crossing in Tokyo’s Ota Ward after he ignored a red light. The court heard that Mrs. Azuma suffered a head wound when she was knocked to the ground, from which she died five days later.

The 46-year-old cyclist is believed to have been travelling at somewhere between 15 and 25 km/h (9-15 mph) and “was not paying attention” during the moments prior to colliding with Ms. Azuma. The pensioner was quickly taken to hospital for medical treatment, but did not recover from her injuries.

Where this case stands out, apart from the enormous sum that the cyclist is being ordered to pay in damages, is that it was handled as if it were a car accident rather than one involving a bicycle. The judge, BBC News reports, hoped that by handing down such a severe penalty it would send a clear message to cyclists in the city and alert them to the dangers of cycling in crowded areas without due care.

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Despite its enormous population and vast numbers of bicycle users, Tokyo has surprisingly few dedicated cycle lanes, and cyclists can often be seen sharing sidewalks with pedestrians, frequently dodging between them and having occasional near-misses.

Changes to the law several years ago made it an offence to ride a bicycle while holding an umbrella, operating a mobile phone, or wearing headphones, though each of the behaviours remains a common sight amongst those who rely on their bike to get around the crowded city, where the price of a parking space for a car can sometimes cost as much as renting a small apartment.

Cycle safely, boys and girls!

Source: BBC News Japan Daily Press
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