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Get on your Bikes and Ride!!!

Cue the hit song Bicycle by Queen… Ready?  “I wanna ride my bicycle….. I wanna ride my bike…. (I know you’re singing it in your head right now).

Yes, they are everywhere in Japan – those wonderful self-propelled Steel Horses. There are over 72 million of them here (figures from 2013). It’s a very simple concept, really. Two wheels connected by a steel frame, and propelled by pedals, while steered with handlebars attached to the front wheel. The basic bike has been around since 1817, and the modern version is undoubtedly one of, if not THE best form of transportation in the city – especially in a country with crowded trains that make even the NY Rush Hour seem like a relaxing time. With so many Steel Horses on the road, however, there are bound to be some rules and regulations to ensure everyone’s safety.

Unfortunately, not many people actually know all the bike laws in Japan – and why would you?  Even Police Officers seem to not follow (or, perhaps know) the convoluted Bike Laws here.  With the bike-friendlier season just around the corner, and to save you time, we’ve rummaged through all the laws, and have compiled this comprehensive list for you, so you can ride to your heart’s content.

Basic rules of the Road (Important)

Other Bicycle Laws (Kinda Important)

Due to a rise in bicycle-related accidents in recent years, a revised and updated traffic law went into effect in May this year (2015).
Under the new law, any cyclist who is caught riding through a Red Light or violating other traffic regulations more than two times in a period of three years, will be obliged to take a safety course before being allowed back on their Steel Horses. The course lasts for three hours, and costs the participants 5,700 yen. Anyone who does not attend the course after receiving the order is subject to a fine of up to 50,000 yen.

The rules outlined above exist, but are hardly ever enforced, and in fact, there is evidently  some confusion even among traffic police (aka bike police) as to the complexities of bicycle traffic rules.

There you have it, folks, the comprehensive list of how to Properly ride your bike in Japan.  Whether you’re cruising down the sidewalk on your Mamachari, or racing down the streets on your road bike, please stay safe and know these laws.  In the end, it all boils down to common sense, really: Don’t drive like an idiot, and pay attention to the people and vehicles around you.  See, not that difficult, right?  Now get off your butt, grab your bike and enjoy the Autumn Season, which brings perfect cycling weather!

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