Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Los Angeles
Bikes: Old Hard Rock, New Cannondale R400
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Bikes are extrememly common in Japan. There is pretty much no where that you cannot ride except for the expressways or places where it is specifically excluded with signage (like inside train stations). They are a widely accepted form of transportation. In fact, the biggest problem concerning bikes now is that parked bikes clog up sidewalks around train stations.
Technically, bicycles are treated as light vehicles so you are bound by the same laws as automobiles unless there are signs that say you can do otherwise (for instance, most posted one-way streets apply to autos only). However, I have also found that most riders (little old ladies included) rarely pay attention to the laws. Heck, I have even seen cops ride the wrong down the wrong of the street on their bikes.
It is very easy to get around on bicycle even though a few of the roads have more traffic and exhaust than you might like. Also some train lines will require that you have a bag or cover in which to carry your bike if you want to hop a train with your bike. I got a decent one for 3600 yen that rolls up and straps under my saddle when I am riding. As far as I know there are no provisions for putting a bike on a bus.
On the tandem issue, the law as I understand it prohibits more than one person (small children excluded) to ride on one bicycle. It's funny because even though tandems are illegal, you see high school kids riding double all the time and no one complains unless they do it right in front of a cop. By the way, this does not seem to be true for Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture where you can rent tandems. It is only place that I have seen tandems on public roads.
Note that most of experience is in Tokyo. It may be different for other places.
Spire, what do you have in mind? Planning a bike tour of Japan?