Dangerous bicycles -
Japanese bicycle riders hardly keep traffic rules

This is the bicycle I used in Denmark. It is not a high-performance machine, but compact and equipped with a three-stage gear.

This is our family bicycle, a typical "mama-chari". "Chari" or "charinko" is a baby talk for bicycle and "mama-chari" means "mama's bicycle". - Here the saddle is set slightly higher, because I have just used it.

Bicycles should go on the furthest left side.

Bicycles should in principle go in a vehicle lane.

Bicycle riders should get off and push their bicycles on zebra crossings.
While living in Denmark, I became fascinated with bicycle riding. Needles to say, the infrastructure for bicycles is well developed in Denmark. Bicycle roads and lanes exist almost everywhere and bicycle is a comfortable and speedy tool to move not only short distance but also long distance, say 40 or 50 km.

The bicycle is by nature much more convenient than the car in visiting interesting places, for we can find something, stop somewhere and find parking place much more smoothly when we ride a bicycle than when we drive a car. I could fully enjoy these merits in Denmark thanks to the excellent Danish infrastructure. It was indeed a refreshing experience to feel the breeze and the fragrance of trees and grasses while pedaling a bicycle.

Therefore, I came to love bicycles and wanted to continue bicycle riding in Japan. However, after coming back home, I found that bicycles in Japan are different from those in Denmark. They have different equipment and mechanics. Japanese bicycles have a shopping bag in front of the handle, low saddle position, usually no multi-stage gear system, a headlight, a small bell and a hand brake system.

These differences come from the difference in the role of bicycles in Japan and Denmark. Japanese people do not ride long distance at high speed. In Japan bicycles are first and foremost for mothers to go shopping and transport their children in the neighborhood and for businesspeople to commute between home and railway station. They are indispensable tools for the daily life of many citizens and there are as many as 70 million bicycles in Japan.

Nevertheless, the usage of bicycles in Japan is extremely chaotic and it seems to me that people ride bicycles much as they please. Few people pay attention to traffic rules for bicycles. I wonder whether they know that there are traffic rules also for bicycles?

For example, as bicycles are vehicles, they should go in vehicle lanes and on the furthest left side. But, I see many bicycles go on the right side of a street.

They are even allowed to go on sidewalks when it is extremely dangerous to go in vehicle lanes. Whenever they go on sidewalks, they should go slowly and pay utmost attention to pedestrians. However, bicycle riders seem to think that they can freely go on sidewalks.

As for zebra crossings, riders should get off and push their bicycles, because zebra zones are for pedestrians. But, it seems that nobody pays attention to this rule and pedestrians have to watch bicycles coming and going at high speed on zebra crossings.

It is forbidden for three or more people sit on a bicycle, because it is highly dangerous. Riding double on a one-person bicycle is allowed, provided that the pedaler is older than 16 year and the other person is a child of 5 years old or younger. But, riding triple is in no way permitted. However, these rules are also often neglected.

Last summer, the government changed some rules for bicycles and public attention was paid to the issue whether and under what conditions riding triple on a bicycle should be allowed. Riding triple was and is illegal, but few mothers seem to take it seriously. The government also understands the necessity for mothers to transport two small children and encourages companies to develop new types of bicycle suitable to transport two children. There are certain models in Denmark and elsewhere. But, we have to take into consideration of special conditions in Japan, namely narrow and crowded roads, so new types would have to be designed fo Japanese roads.

So, if you are in Japan, you must pay attention to dangerous bicycles also on sidewalks or zebra zones. If you ride bicycles in Japan, please keep the traffic rules and show that you are better two-wheeled citizens than many Japanese bicycle riders!

Bicycle is a highly popular transport means in Japan. Good parking etiquette is important for a good social life.