Originally Posted by klmmicro
I am always curious about different places people ride. Are the streets there orderly, or do you have to pay extra attention for drivers? Is there rural riding that you can get to?
Well, the streets are fairly orderly and pretty much set out in the same way as roads in England are. As a driver in a car there are a few things that don't make any sense to me at all. But then, the way human beings generally think has never made much sense to me so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this.
As a cyclist it's actually very safe, especially as you are allowed to ride on the pavement if you want to. Some people may think that's hazardous, but it very much depends on the mentality of the people involved.
In general, the people in Japan are very calm and respectful. So people are not racing along the paths thoughtlessly, they generally show a lot of respect to each other and so it doesn't cause any problems. Although as a pedestrian it can be a bit startling when a cyclist quietly sneeks up behind you and rings their bell. Personally I find bells very annoying anyway, maybe they're necessary in a serious situation, but when used as a sort of announcement that everyone should make way for you, it's irritating and a bit rude in my opinion.
When I'm riding on the path, which is actually quite fun, I will slow right down and calmly go past people, it just takes one sudden step in any direction and an accident could easily happen, and if it did I would consider it to be my fault as I would have been going too fast on a pavement which is actually mostly for people to walk on.
On the roads it's also very safe to ride, cars will show respect and don't tend to drive too fast. Of course there are always one or two drivers that don't pay enough attention sometimes, so you still have to be careful.
As I said, there is a very different mentality in Japan. Most people are not angry, looking to shout at someone or get into an argument over nothing, cars will very rarely use their horns, and you don't get the sort of militant, obnoxious drivers and cyclists that you have in other parts of the world, especially as there are in England.
The sort of car driver that gets angry at anything in their way, or the cyclists that will pull immediately in front of cars at traffic lights and act as if they are themselves are driving a car, when they could easily just stay at the side of the road and not prevent the traffic from moving forward when the lights change.
Most people in Japan just seems to know what to do, and how to behave so as to prevent needless confrontation.
There are lots of more rough tracks over and around the various mountains in Kyoto if you want that sort of thing. Generally the roads are very flat and well maintained. Something I've noticed that's great is that for cyclists using the paths, there are lowered, smooth bits at the edge of the pavement so you can cross a small road and get back on the path without a big bump on your wheel.