As of January 1, 2014, bicycles in Japan will no longer be allowed on sidewalks.
Instead, they should ride with traffic on the left side of the road.
This sounds logical enough.
Pedestrians should be able to walk on a sidewalk without fear of being hit by a cyclist.
However, we suspect that the law will not be enforced, or perhaps only enforced in pre-announced police campaigns. Once the campaign period is over - no more enforcement.
Moreover, cycling on sidewalks in urban Japan is often the safer - though slower - alternative.
As Amy Chavez notes,
"Statistics support this. In 2011, cycling accidents involving cars killed 556 people, while those involving pedestrians killed six. Just one death resulted from cyclist-on-cyclist accidents. If these figures are reliable, they suggest that violating the law regarding riding on undesignated sidewalks is the safest thing you can do!"
(However, we take issue with Chavez's assertion that: "But after that point, I wonder if there aren’t huge advantages to riding against the flow of traffic so you can see what is coming and avoid an accident (the very reason it is recommended you walk against the traffic). The only advantage to riding into traffic - on the wrong side of the road - is that you will be able to see cars as they hit you.)
Finally, without a developed bicycle infrastructure - proper bike lanes, etc. - cyclists will be forced onto already clogged city streets.
Tags Japan Touring Kyoto Cycle Japanese