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Old 04-30-04, 09:47 PM   #1
Fugazi Dave
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Bike laws and bike culture in Tokyo

Any good resources to this end, either online or printed? I'm just looking to make myself aware of the way things are in Tokyo as compared to, say, Chicago, as far as bike laws and culture are concerned. Info and/or thoughts? Thanks.
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Old 04-30-04, 11:21 PM   #2
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I don't know about written resources, but how about, been there, done that accounts? It is my understanding that the official "road" rules are similar to the U.S. - i.e. bicycles are vehicles, and if on the road should follow traffic laws, pretty much like in the U.S. You know they drive on the left, correct?

That being said, much of the bicycle culture is "mama chattis" driven on the sidewalk. If you think U.S. roads are dangerous for bicyclists, you should test your fear factor on many Japanese city streets. In general, the roads do not have shoulders. The main roads often are bordered on either side by curbs, guardrails, or something. The side roads may be bordered by houses or house walls.

I vaguely remember someone relating either a first or second hand story of a Japanese cop telling the cyclist that they should be on the sidewalk, and the cyclist telling the cop that actually the bikes should legally be on the road, etc. Sound like a familar issue? Legally, I think if you want to claim your right to ride in the street, go for it.

When we lived in Hino (a Tokyo suburb), I remember that the main roads usually had well paved sidewalks that were pretty much shared use paths for bikes and pedestrians. Navigating through the smaller side streets, you just ride on the road.

Later, when we moved to Mino (an Osaka suburb), my wife was always nervous about the 1 foot deep open concrete drainage ditches right next to the sidewalks, where we would usually bike to get to the "suupaa" (i.e. supermarket). When I would bike to work in Mino, part time I would ride on the sidewalk, and part of the time on the road. It just depended on whether the road was a main road, or not, or the traffic conditions. BTW, here in the U.S., I only ride on the road - if that tells you anything.

Another exciting thing I remember, at least in Mino, were the side roads that had concrete utility poles right in the road (at least they were to one side, and usually had a nice warning poster attached). No, these weren't "break away" concrete utility poles either.

Again in Mino, if I timed it just right (usually in the morning), I might catch part of an interesting hearding behavior, the group cycle to school. Dozens and dozens of school kids, decked out in their school uniforms plus the official school cycling helment (looks like a hard hat) bedecked with the obligatory green cross for safety, all heading to school at once. Combine this scene with the occasional Japanese matron or two making their way along, plus a gaikokujin or two - just to make it truly sureal.

In Mino we lived on the edge of a quasi-protected forest and "mountains". Since we were suburbs, but on the edge of the sparsely populated area, we could sometimes see a few Japanese road bikers - with the jerseys and cycling shorts, etc. - testing their mettle on the mountain roads. Just to prove to me that there were some Japanese who were seriously interested in road biking. Again, you had to be brave, because these were some twisting, steep, two-lane, no shoulder roads, with some car traffic. No, that was me on the bus watching them - my road bike stayed in the parking garage most of the time.

Anyway, I hope this rambling gives you at least a little of what you were looking for. Besides, as always, your mileage may vary...
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Old 05-01-04, 03:58 AM   #3
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Much appreciated. Definite food for thought.
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Old 05-01-04, 04:16 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by blueline
Again in Mino, if I timed it just right (usually in the morning), I might catch part of an interesting hearding behavior, the group cycle to school. Dozens and dozens of school kids, decked out in their school uniforms plus the official school cycling helment (looks like a hard hat) bedecked with the obligatory green cross for safety, all heading to school at once. Combine this scene with the occasional Japanese matron or two making their way along, plus a gaikokujin or two - just to make it truly sureal.
Reminds me of the chase scene in "Black Rain" where Michael Douglas chases some yukasa criminals into a smelting factory and hoardes of bicycling workers behind dump trucks present quite the moving obstacle.
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Old 05-02-04, 10:50 PM   #5
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It may not be quite the info you're looking for, but the Japan Bicycle Promotion Institute site has some articles about cycling promotion, new initiatives and general bike-related topics in its online library:

http://www.jbpi.or.jp (Japanese)
http://www.jbpi.or.jp/eng/ (English)
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Old 05-04-04, 11:48 PM   #6
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I don't know that Tokyo is particularly unique, cycling-wise. Bikes are considered light vehicles and are supposed to travel on the road, with the traffic. That doesn't stop the majority of housewives and students on shopping bikes from riding on the sidewalks and terrorizing pedestrians, or from riding on the road against the traffic and terrorizing drivers and serious cyclists. Tandems are illegal. Otherwise, I donít think Tokyo is either more or less cycle-friendly than other major cities.

There is an active roadie scene, but the Japanese police are generally unwilling to give permission for open-road races. Aside from the occasional century ride, amateur racing is pretty much limited to closed-circuit crits and hill-climbs. The hill-climb races are the highlight for me, and the largest of the year attracts 4,000 riders for a 1,400 meter 24 km climb.
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Old 05-05-04, 12:08 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blueline
...much of the bicycle culture is "mama chattis" driven on the sidewalk.

Again in Mino, if I timed it just right (usually in the morning), I might catch part of an interesting hearding behavior, the group cycle to school. Dozens and dozens of school kids, decked out in their school uniforms plus the official school cycling helment (looks like a hard hat) bedecked with the obligatory green cross for safety, all heading to school at once. Combine this scene with the occasional Japanese matron or two making their way along, plus a gaikokujin or two - just to make it truly sureal.

In Mino we lived on the edge of a quasi-protected forest and "mountains". Since we were suburbs, but on the edge of the sparsely populated area, we could sometimes see a few Japanese road bikers - with the jerseys and cycling shorts, etc. - testing their mettle on the mountain roads. Just to prove to me that there were some Japanese who were seriously interested in road biking. Again, you had to be brave, because these were some twisting, steep, two-lane, no shoulder roads, with some car traffic. No, that was me on the bus watching them - my road bike stayed in the parking garage most of the time.
My understanding is that most Japanese bicycling is done for things like home errands - grocery shopping and the like - sort of like Holland.

I think small folding-style bikes are popular, too.

And the school kids' Critical Mass ride...priceless!!!
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Old 05-05-04, 06:32 PM   #8
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Pucci - anywhere online I can find info about the crits and hill-climbs? Both are definitely of interest to me.
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Old 05-05-04, 10:04 PM   #9
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Pucci - anywhere online I can find info about the crits and hill-climbs? Both are definitely of interest to me.
Have a look at this thread - lots of HC race links: Hill Climb Races in Japan

And here is a link for the Japan Cycle Race Club, which does alot of the crits: http://www.jcrc-net.jp/

Hope you can wade through the Japanese because there is not much info in English.
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Old 05-05-04, 10:42 PM   #10
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Many thanks. Both URL's have been bookmarked for reference when my Japanese skills are a little more usable.
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