Cycling to work (or indeed anywhere) safely - help me out

Half-Fast Mike

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May 22, 2007
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Recent discussion in May 2019 thread on the rules of the road for us cyclists is interesting.

I've been encouraging people to cycle to work, if they want to, for many years, and have provided suitable infrastructure and technical support.

Now (as punishment, perhaps) I have been asked to run a talk/discussion on the rules of the road as they pertain to cyclists in Tokyo... and how to stay alive.

Can I ask for your help?
  • Post photos of cyclists doing exactly what they are not supposed to do, or similarly illustrative illustrations. Doesn't have to be your own photo, but helpful if identifiably in Japan.
  • What are the most ridiculous rules that you know of?
  • What suggestions do you have for people considering cycling to work?
  • etc.
I may make a YouTube of the eventual event, so that I don't have to do it again. :)
 

bawbag

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Mar 20, 2013
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For suggestions, I'd just reiterate what I posted in the other thread about positioning. I'd also teach them that signalling makes it better for everyone involved - if you're coming up on a parked car and need to move out, do a shoulder check and signal in plenty of time to alert drivers of your intention. That kind of thing would be good to actually do on the street. Get a bunch of hire bikes for the day and just take out groups of 5 or so, showing them where to ride and how to signal.

Ridiculous rules? Not sure but isn't there one that requires all bikes to have reflectors or something?
 

TokyoLiving

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Dec 9, 2015
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One suggestion - always anticipate.
Also, let them know drivers are fond of driving past cyclists fast only to slow down suddenly to turn left.
On a similar note, turn signals are used just as they are turning not a few hundred meters before the turn.

I commute three times a week (20km, each way) and have been on a quest to either eliminate or minimize travel on busy roads.
Between back roads and bike paths I am down to about 10% involvement with traffic. It took a while to figure out, but totally worth it.
 

bloaker

Sincerely A Dick
Nov 14, 2011
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Suggestions for people cycling to work:
The shortest way is usually not the best way. Plan your route based on traffic as well as planning when you leave. I have two offices, one is 3km from my house and wide roads the entire way. No thought needed on how to get there and back. The second office is 10km away. No matter what, I will end up on a busy road.A combo of Rt24 & 16 or a lot of Rt27. At 0630, both routes are relatively light traffic. At 0700, both routes have standing traffic and more busses.

On the way home, same issues with traffic. Before 430, it is not too bad. After 430, cars are racing home and not giving much space.
Rt24/16 - all those narrow tunnels. Rt27 hass lots of slow going due to climbs.

For the route home, I can just do the Miura Loop. It is beautiful and for the most part, wider roads.

Things to consider:
Rt24/16 has less climbing on the way to work - Yay, arrive to work not sweaty.
Rt24/17 has 7 tunnels I have to share with cars - Boo, people are rushing to work.
Rt27 is less distance, however slower going due to constant elevation changes. Yay, smell ripe at work, maybe people won't talk to me.
Rt27 is 2 lanes the entire way, so cars are tempted to squeeze by. Yay, excitement the entire way...
Rt27 involves 2 tunnels. The first is getting to 27. It have a 4m wide bike path. The second is super wide as well, no bike path.

The above thoughts are what I consider every morning as I am heading out. I have 2 blocks to commit to my route.
 

OreoCookie

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Also, let them know drivers are fond of driving past cyclists fast only to slow down suddenly to turn left.
On a similar note, turn signals are used just as they are turning not a few hundred meters before the turn.
You nailed it. The first is one of the few regularly re-occurring dangerous situations where I think I can do very little against. The second is one of my only major gripes against the average Japanese drivers: they do not use turn signals early enough. In the other countries I have lived in (including my native country of Germany), people use turn signal much earlier.

Hence, what I have started doing here is to make sure I am well ahead of the car I want to be faster than, and that they can clearly see me. So when I am the first bicycle at a traffic light, I move my bike past the first car and make sure I am clearly visible to the driver.
I commute three times a week (20km, each way) and have been on a quest to either eliminate or minimize travel on busy roads.
Between back roads and bike paths I am down to about 10% involvement with traffic. It took a while to figure out, but totally worth it.
Solid advice — if you can. I live in the city right at a major road, so I can’t do that.
 

MattRyuu

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Apr 23, 2019
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One suggestion - always anticipate.
Also, let them know drivers are fond of driving past cyclists fast only to slow down suddenly to turn left.
On a similar note, turn signals are used just as they are turning not a few hundred meters before the turn.

I commute three times a week (20km, each way) and have been on a quest to either eliminate or minimize travel on busy roads.
Between back roads and bike paths I am down to about 10% involvement with traffic. It took a while to figure out, but totally worth it.
On anticipation, watch your cross roads. I have had to slam brakes because delivery truck drivers pulling out of side streets after stopping didn't see me or didn't care.
 

kiwisimon

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Dec 14, 2006
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I would encourage you to encourage everyone to get off the sidewalk and onto the roads. This is legally what is required anyway. It is safer and a greater critical mass of cyclists will (a) make drivers more aware of cyclists creating even safer roads which will (b) encourage more people to cycle which will (c) speed up traffic commuting times thanks to less 4 wheel traffic. Tokyo should be a cycling paradise as it's mostly flat and quite compact but cyclists have been cowered onto the sidewalk, where they most definitely shouldn't be, by drivers. Take back your roads for everyone sake, present and future.

Yesterday I saw two high school kids riding down a two lane road. Speed limit is 50kms and as it was down hill they were doing an easy 35-40kph. One was on road and his mate on the sidewalk. As a car emerged from a business it was NOT expecting a fast cyclist on the sidewalk and consequently pulled out and stopped before joining the road traffic. The problem was the high school boy was just too damn close, too damn fast and on a shopping bike with crap brakes. I was in my car watching the whole thing play out and could see it coming. The kid tried to sneak in front of the stopped car but his pedal and leg collided with the front of the car. He flew off and fortunately ended up in the curb, not the road. He stood up and limped back to his bike, he wasn't wearing a helmet as it's not something High Schools enforce even though most kids only really start riding from high school age as JHS ban cycling to school. I had to turn on the arrow and never saw what hapened next but I imagine the driver was assigned most of the blame. Sidewalks are where accidents happen IMO.
 

Kangaeroo

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Mandatory hugging of the curb even in a left-hand turning lane only when you need to go straight is a situation asking for disaster, I believe. Many of the fights I've had with drivers have revolved around staying in the left-most lane enabling me to continue going straight instead of being in the left-hand lane as the law requires me to be.
 
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Karl

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My two cents:

1. Be seen... wear bright colors, use flashers front and rear
2. See... use a mirror that gives a wide field of view and always keep focused on what is ahead and behind.
3. Anticipate: (as Tokyo Living said)
a. don't expect people to follow any rules of the road
b. watch especially for drivers who are texting...usually drifting from left to right in the lane... give them a wide berth
c. watch for the 'squeeze play'... two lane street with vehicles parked in the biking lane or left lane and you have to go into traffic to get around.
(some drivers slow, but many/most will try to squeeze between you and the car you're going around) stop if necessary
d. watch for drivers who, when coming from a side street, put the nose of the car into the bike lane without stopping.
e. in the residential areas, everyone seems to think they are the only ones on the roads, especially young school kids and moms on mamacharis. Expect no one to stop at intersections or side streets.
4. Go slower... impact forces at 30 kph are much more than at 20 kph. Also, at 30 kph you have much less time to react to a bad situation and stop. Leave earlier if necessary.
5. As others have said, find a route that allows you to avoid dangerous areas (fast traffic, narrow streets). Even if it is longer, it's worth it.
 

kiwisimon

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. Many of the fights I've had with drivers have revolved around staying in the left-most lane enabling me to continue going straight instead of being in the left-hand lane as the law requires me to be.
Yeah it's pretty inconvenient but the rules are written to protect the average 62 yr old Taro Blogs riding at about 18kph not sportsmen riding at traffic pace. Not worth getting into a fight over, leave home 5 minutes earlier and you eliminate that stress.
 
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jdd

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When you're in traffic and the signal turns red, stop and stay at your position (vehicle in front, vehicle behind). Don't go slaloming up the left side (or right!) to get to the front of the line. You'll just irritate those drivers who will need to pass you again. (There was a name for this dick move, but I can't recall it right now.) When the vehicle in front of you starts to move, then you go, too.

Also, from some similar position at a signal, instead of starting up like that, you can step to the side and let most everyone who had been stopped for the light go on by. Then take off and go. Less stress all round. (I know this doesn't work when it's really busy, but if there are some cycles/pauses in the traffic, I think it's safer to wait a little.)
 

bloaker

Sincerely A Dick
Nov 14, 2011
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When you're in traffic and the signal turns red, stop and stay at your position (vehicle in front, vehicle behind). Don't go slaloming up the left side (or right!) to get to the front of the line. You'll just irritate those drivers who will need to pass you again. (There was a name for this dick move, but I can't recall it right now.) When the vehicle in front of you starts to move, then you go, too.

Also, from some similar position at a signal, instead of starting up like that, you can step to the side and let most everyone who had been stopped for the light go on by. Then take off and go. Less stress all round. (I know this doesn't work when it's really busy, but if there are some cycles/pauses in the traffic, I think it's safer to wait a little.)
I have mixed feelings on some of this.... I think it is situational.

Saturday morning and I roll up behind 8 cars at a light. It is nothing but daylight after the light. I will absolutely stay in my place and let those cars get far away from me. Everyone wins. I get a big piece of real estate to myself and the cars don't have to bother passing me. I do this 100% of the time in this scenario.

Monday morning heading to work I roll up on 8 cars at a light. I can see the next light and the 20 cars waiting there. I know 200m past that light is another light, etc.... If I roll up to the front, the first car knows there is a bike there. That first car can also see the standing traffic at the next light. "IF" he chooses to pass me when the light turns green, it will be for a fleeting moments, because at the next light I will pass him and the 20 cars in front.

I get to my "Far" office in just over 20 minutes during rush hour on my bike. I get there in 45 with my car. When a bike passes me on the way in, I almost never see them again.
 

adventurous cyclist

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May 16, 2019
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My two cents:

1. Be seen... wear bright colors, use flashers front and rear
2. See... use a mirror that gives a wide field of view and always keep focused on what is ahead and behind.
3. Anticipate: (as Tokyo Living said)
a. don't expect people to follow any rules of the road
b. watch especially for drivers who are texting...usually drifting from left to right in the lane... give them a wide berth
c. watch for the 'squeeze play'... two lane street with vehicles parked in the biking lane or left lane and you have to go into traffic to get around.
(some drivers slow, but many/most will try to squeeze between you and the car you're going around) stop if necessary
d. watch for drivers who, when coming from a side street, put the nose of the car into the bike lane without stopping.
e. in the residential areas, everyone seems to think they are the only ones on the roads, especially young school kids and moms on mamacharis. Expect no one to stop at intersections or side streets.
4. Go slower... impact forces at 30 kph are much more than at 20 kph. Also, at 30 kph you have much less time to react to a bad situation and stop. Leave earlier if necessary.
5. As others have said, find a route that allows you to avoid dangerous areas (fast traffic, narrow streets). Even if it is longer, it's worth it.

The above is sound advice that I even would tell my child. Also sometimes it is even safer to walk the bike across the walk way crossings.
 
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OreoCookie

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I have mixed feelings on some of this.... I think it is situational.
Same here. Especially in the city when there is traffic I am usually as fast or faster on a bike than cars. I usually roll up to the traffic light and check whether the car wants to turn, i. e. I turn my head and check whether the drivers have set a turn signal and whether they have noticed me. Especially when the first car makes a left turn, I’d have to wait for a long time together with all the cars or eventually overtake the turning car. I find it safer to instead go straight right away and the turning car will give me a bit of breathing room.
 
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jdd

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I have mixed feelings on some of this.... I think it is situational.

(1) Saturday morning and I roll up behind 8 cars at a light. It is nothing but daylight after the light. I will absolutely stay in my place and let those cars get far away from me. Everyone wins. I get a big piece of real estate to myself and the cars don't have to bother passing me. I do this 100% of the time in this scenario.

(2) Monday morning heading to work I roll up on 8 cars at a light. I can see the next light and the 20 cars waiting there. I know 200m past that light is another light, etc.... If I roll up to the front, the first car knows there is a bike there. That first car can also see the standing traffic at the next light. "IF" he chooses to pass me when the light turns green, it will be for a fleeting moments, because at the next light I will pass him and the 20 cars in front.
...
Okay, "kanto" rules, I guess (or some other major urban place), vs somewhere else. #1 is what I was focused on, but I can also see the nature of #2.

But @Half-Fast Mike is looking to get new and/or less confident riders more involved in cycling to work. OTOH, both you and @OreoCookie are advanced and experienced. For new riders, I'd be offering #1, and maybe cautiously mentioning #2.

*****

While I could certainly find this locally: "I can see the next light and the 20 cars waiting there. I know 200m past that light is another light, etc...," that kind of road & riding is easy to avoid here. And I hope mike is will not be convincing people to commute thru that kind of thing.
 

wexford

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I only started commuting recently. Basically around 5k to the office and home. Nice gentle hilly route. I'm never really in a rush getting to work though, so I try to find as many small roads and steep hills as I can find on the way. I don't really meet that many car trying to pass me. I ride a fixed gear bike, rear light flashing and two reflective ankle bands to appeal to drivers and keep my pants out of the chain and bottle cages. I love it.

Going home, it is sometime dark or dusk. I always have a bright front light flashing also and I usually go for it on the up hills and downhills to see what happens when I reach my max cadence :) Lots of fun. I try to obey the lights although sometimes fail depending on the situation. I haven't quite got my skidding down yet so I use both brakes when needed but try to back pedal otherwise.

So far so good. Only 2 incidents which were both me learning more about my fixie. One was going up hill quite fast when a taxi stopped suddenly which caused me to stop pedalling and have a bit of a rear wheel in the air moment that I hadn't quite planned on and the other one was catching a tire on an uneven surface at night time which caused me to also stop pedalling briefly which always seems to be an issue on a fixed gear bike :)

My advice is to avoid a fixed gear bike if you want to be extra safe, but I love mine :)

Now, I got to go find some wood and touch it for a while.
 

Half-Fast Mike

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May 22, 2007
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There was a name for this dick move, but I can't recall it right now.
I think the word you're after is 'shoaling', although I've only previously encountered it in the context of cyclist-on-cyclist dickishness.

Personally, when commuting, I will generally be found in front of any queue of cars at a stop light. My internal excuses/justifications include being seen, having better visibility on what might be happening on the other roads of the junction, and getting the hell away from the 'dragon's breath' resulting from the cars' air-con.

I wouldn't advise anyone else to ride how I ride!

Lots of good advice in the posts so far. Thank you. Keep it coming.