bike safety top

There’s no shortage of people doing out of the ordinary things on bikes in Japan. It’s not uncommon to see people riding while holding umbrellas, having their whole bikes covered in a parka, using a walking bicycle, or even a bicycle specifically made for wearing a kimono.

But the golden era of crazy Japan cycling may have come to an end. As of June 2015, a set of 14 laws have been passed nationwide to enforce safe and correct use of bicycles. If you plan on riding a two-wheeled foot-powered vehicle in Japan, then you may want to check them over to make sure that you don’t end up having to pay a hefty fine.

To be fair, the new laws won’t send you to jail or make you bankrupt if you make one mistake while cycling around Japan. The new policy simply says that if you are caught doing any of the illegal actions below twice or more in a three-year period, then you have to take a class on bicycle safety. The class costs 5,700 yen (US$46), and if you decide you’d rather skip out on it, that will cost you 50,000 yen ($404).

So with that out of the way, here are the 14 things you need to be careful not to do while riding your bike in Japan:

1. Ignoring Traffic Signals

Well that’s a given. Remember, green means go, and red means resist all temptation to floor it through the intersection.

2. Riding in Prohibited Areas

Another pretty straightforward one.

▼ Bicycles belong on the road, not in the water.

8633640887_b0669fe102_zFlickr (Nick Page)

3. Riding Unsafely on Footpaths/Riding on Undesignated Pedestrian Roads

Since bicycles are classified as small vehicles, the law states that they must be ridden on the road whenever possible, unless the operator is a child, or there are signs that allow for bicycles to be ridden on the same stretch of pavement that pedestrians are using. Cyclists are also expected to ride at slow speeds when on sidewalks to avoid collisions.

4. Riding in the Wrong Lane

If there is a bicycle lane available on the road, cyclists are expected to use it. If there is no bicycle lane, then they are expected to ride along with the flow of vehicle traffic.

▼ Remember, in Japan that means you ride on the left side of the road, just like this gentleman is doing.

2611693058_0bf7a0ebe1_zFlickr (Steve Voght)

5. Obstructing Pedestrians

This doesn’t just mean you’re not supposed to get all up in pedestrians’ grill and ride in circles around them or harass them. It means always yielding to pedestrians, giving them the right of way, and maintaining a safe, slow speed whenever you are sharing a road with them.

6. Crossing through Active Railroad Crossings

Yeah, don’t cross over the railroad tracks when the lights are flashing and the guard rails are down. That’s just not a good idea.

7. Ignoring Intersection Safety

When you get to an intersection, be sure to stop, check to see who has the right of way, then proceed carefully. Bursting through with your eyes closed and hoping for the best will probably not work out the way you want it to.

▼ You don’t want your bike (or yourself!) to end up as food for the Wheel Whale.

15064788391_b34cbe6969_zFlickr (Michael Coghlan)

8. Obstructing an Intersection

If you’re making a right turn across an intersection (the equivalent of a left turn going across the intersection in right-side driving countries), and you have to wait for traffic to make your turn, be sure to move up enough to let the drivers behind you who want to go straight and turn left get past. You don’t want to cause a backup.

9. Riding Unsafely in Roundabouts/Rotaries

Oh those big, circular roadways. It’s like a ferris wheel, but for moving vehicles than can slam into each other! Be sure to enter, ride, and exit observing all traffic rules.

10. Not Obeying Stop Signs

So, the sign says “stop.” It is usually in your best interest to listen to the sign.

▼ This sign says “stop” too. Please listen to the sign. It’s trying its hardest to keep you safe.

6987746852_8bfa0094e3_oFlickr (Yukako Hinagu)

11. Not Stopping at Crosswalks

This is another item on the list to emphasize how cyclists are expected to give pedestrians the right of way. If you’re on a bike and you want to make use of a crosswalk, then you’re expected to stop before crossing if there are pedestrians also using it.

12. Riding a Bike with Poor Brakes

Not exactly sure why you’d want to ride a bike with ineffective brakes, or even one with no brakes at all. But if you were a fan for some reason, your days of crashing into things to stop your bike are over. Also, be aware that having brakes on only of your wheels can get you in trouble too; both the front and rear wheels need working brakes.

▼ Or else this might happen to you.

9176187566_e481672d6b_zFlickr (Brad Hammonds)

13. Riding Under the Influence

If you’re planning on riding your bike back home from a nomikai (drinking party) with your coworkers, now is the time to start thinking of alternate plans. Either get someone else who hasn’t been drinking to drive you (and possibly your folding bike too?) home, or make use of all those taxi phone numbers most Japanese bars and izakaya (pubs) happily provide.

14. Not Riding Safely

Ah, the old catch-all. This basically covers anything else that could be considered operating a bicycle unsafely. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, riding one-handed, holding an umbrella while riding, and/or using a cellphone while riding.

▼ We’re also pretty sure that this unfortunately includes riding with adorable pets.

1475776461_12c8b390ed_zFlickr (m.louis)

Keep in mind that the laws apply to everyone aged 14 and older, and the two-strike policy is cumulative all over Japan. So if you get caught breaking one of the above somewhere in Tokyo, and then you get caught again a few months later in another prefecture, that’s your two strikes right there. You’ll have to hit the books and ace your bicycle safety class before you’re allowed back on the road.

We know it’s asking a lot of those out there who just love riding their no-brakes bike while drunk and carrying on a cellphone conversation, but in the interest of keeping everyone safe on the road, let’s all try to obey the new laws as best we can!

Featured/top image © RocketNews24
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