Cyclists Reminded of New Left Side Rule

#1
Just when I thought I understood Japanese cycling laws, I discover something new.

A new law will take effect on December 13, 2013 which will ban cycling against the flow of traffic in an effort to reduce the number of bicycle related accidents police warned on Friday.

But hold on a second. Aren't bicycles already required by law to use the left lane? Well yes, but it seems there has been a legal loophole which the new law aims to close.

In Japan cyclists can cycle in both directions on sidewalks wider than 3m which are marked as shared use. When cycling on the road bicycles are required by law to keep to the left. So why this new regulation when a law already exists?

Many roads in Japan don't have space for sidewalks, but have a small area on each side of the road marked for pedestrian use by a single white stripe of paint. These side lanes are rarely wide enough for pedestrians to walk two abreast. Under normal conditions pedestrians walk on the roads and when a vehicle approaches they drift, single file, into the side lane until it passes by then disperse to fill all the available road space again.

This revision to the Road Traffic Act pertains to those roads with side lanes. Until now there has been no law preventing cyclists from riding against the flow traffic in these narrow side lanes. Under the revised law bicycles must use the left side of the road at all times. Finally, some much needed consistency.

Cyclists who do not keep to the left-hand side of the road may face up to 30 days in prison or a fine of ¥20,000, police said. The key word in that sentence being "may", because as we all know cycling laws in Japan are rarely, if ever, enforced by the police.

According to National Police Agency data, 3,956 cyclists nationwide were given warnings in 2011, including 17 that reportedly led to fines, meaning that 3,939 cyclists broke the law, but were let off by the police. Is it any wonder cycling laws are largely ignored?

This article originally appeared on Tokyo By Bike.
 

theDude

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#2
Anything that helps this would be nice. As a cyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian and driver, this is probably one of my biggest annoyances with the general cycling population (that's too generous, "bicycle riders") in Japan.
 

saibot

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#3
thank god for this!
Already decked one guy coming on the wrong side of the road, and just in front of a koban to boot :)
 

joewein

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#4
If I want to tell off a cyclist coming towards me on the wrong side of the road, forcing me to move away from the edge of the road to avoid a collision, what is a good phrase (in 1-3 words) to shout at them to remind them that what they're doing is wrong?

I've been calling "hidarigawa" ("left side!"), but what would feel most natural and would convey the intention best?
 

mxs

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#5
If I want to tell off a cyclist coming towards me on the wrong side of the road, forcing me to move away from the edge of the road to avoid a collision, what is a good phrase (in 1-3 words) to shout at them to remind them that what they're doing is wrong?

I've been calling "hidarigawa" ("left side!"), but what would feel most natural and would convey the intention best?
I believe the correct technical term to use that everyone understandings is 逆走 (gyakusou). So I always just yell out "gyakusou ha dame" plus some extra colorful words if I feel it's deserved
 

GSAstuto

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#7
In the last few days there has been extreme activity of police and their oyaji safety group whistle punks at all the intersections. The best I've seen are these expandable signs which say something like 'Cyclist Should Obey Law' that they hold up and stretch out if you appear as if you might jump a light or something. Amidst all of this - the salmon are still swimming upstream. If I see a cyclists coming up the road the 'wrong way' , I do what's natural - move further to the left then force them to swing right around me. No quarter, ever.
 
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bawbag

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#9
Yeah there's been some judicious non-policing going on, affecting the actions of your regular cyclists not a jot. On my ride to work last Saturday, I pulled up to the red light at a big junction to be immediately passed by two guys riding their Louis Garneau chariots, headphones on. Through the red lights they went, straight past two sets of road safety teams and off into the distance. Absolutely no action was taken, even though I saw a few of the staff with plastic whistles dangling off a lanyard.

Meanwhile, the woman on a mamachari who stopped alongside me was greeted cheerfully by one of the road safety staff, who then began to explain their presence. I only heard some advice about keeping reflectors clean before the lights changed and I rode off.

I guess it's business as usual; unless there's a near-miss or a full-on collision, well, what can you do? Better not rile people up by stopping them and giving them a caution.

Not enough funds for cycling infrastructure? Strict road traffic policing for a couple of months solid with on-the-spot fines would generate an insane amount of money. Would also send a clear message to motorists and cyclists alike not to be so blase about the rules of the road.
 

FarEast

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#10
Yes the police may be doing nothing about this, although it will most likely be the main agenda next month, however many of you aren't seeing this law changes for what they really are - it's all to do with insurance claims and companies trying to protect their clients.

The law was pretty much and still is on the side of the lighter vehicle (In this case the bicycle) however as more and more road users are using dash cams, head cams etc they are now winning ground in the court. If you can prove that the mama-chari whom collided head on with you was because the guy/gal was holding an umbrella in one hand, texting on the phone on the other, whilst listening to music through head phones and riding against the flow of traffic then the 100% liability is going to suddenly plummet.

Like wise if you are the cyclists that hits a pedestrian and it is found that you are guilty of any of the above infractions, they are seriously going to throw the book at you.
 
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joewein

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#11
Yeah there's been some judicious non-policing going on, affecting the actions of your regular cyclists not a jot. On my ride to work last Saturday, I pulled up to the red light at a big junction to be immediately passed by two guys riding their Louis Garneau chariots, headphones on. Through the red lights they went, straight past two sets of road safety teams and off into the distance. Absolutely no action was taken, even though I saw a few of the staff with plastic whistles dangling off a lanyard.
These idiots are not always that lucky. I was pretty amazed a couple of months ago to see a 白バイ at Dogenzaka, Shibuya gun its engine to chase down a cyclist who had just run a red light in plain sight of a couple of officers engaged in a traffic safety campaign, who tried to get away even when cops were blowing their whistles at him to get him to stop. Road bike vs. Honda CB1300P is not much of a competition :D
 

GSAstuto

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#12
I see this double standard action all the time as Bawbag saw. The intersections have the whistle punk zealots (anyone go up 20 last weekend???) while the Moto police (the only ones with REAL power to ticket) just let the cyclists do whatever. They need equal, consistent , enforcement. And cyclists need to form a lobby to work with the lawmakers to make sure the road laws apply equally and safely. And then on top of that, get the city planners on the ball for infrastructure improvements.

There is no way they can move the mama-charis off the sidewalk pavement - and , having a small child myself, I stick to the pavement just to be safe. But they can start to direct the flow so its much more consistent and safe. Honestly, the number of 'traffic speed' cyclists in Japan is still very small - but the administrators can make a significant start in improving things for both cyclists and motorists by just doing a few things. They just need to get off the island for a few weeks and observe the rest of the world.
 

Musashi13

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#13
Not enough funds for cycling infrastructure? Strict road traffic policing for a couple of months solid with on-the-spot fines would generate an insane amount of money. Would also send a clear message to motorists and cyclists alike not to be so blase about the rules of the road.
Throw in some fines for the cars that jump red lights and get those with seatbeltless children rattling about the vehicle and there'd be enough to fund whatever schemes they see fit and then some.
 

GSAstuto

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#14
The upcoming 8% consumption tax hike will help, too. Anyway - with the highest debt ratio on the planet - who cares? Just print more!

Throw in some fines for the cars that jump red lights and get those with seatbeltless children rattling about the vehicle and there'd be enough to fund whatever schemes they see fit and then some.
 

GSAstuto

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#16
Now compare that small segment against the many hundreds of km of fietzpaden just in the city and the more than thousands outside .... But, as you know, Amsterdam is required / mandated to provide a cycle strip on any public thoroughfare, so you might see these anomalies now and then. Compare to Japan. Or, well, try to.

Remember it's not just Japan that has $hit bike lanes. Everyone hates us except possibly Amschterdam.

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TokyoTurtle

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#19
The law was pretty much and still is on the side of the lighter vehicle (In this case the bicycle) however as more and more road users are using dash cams, head cams etc they are now winning ground in the court.
A somewhat cynical interpretation James, but given the lack of enforcement of even existing laws probably true.

Like wise if you are the cyclists that hits a pedestrian and it is found that you are guilty of any of the above infractions, they are seriously going to throw the book at you.
This also would apply to everyone here that ignores those "20km/hr" speed limit notices painted every 3 centimeters on the river paths. What would happen to you if you get into a mishap with a pedestrian while doing 37 km/hr?
 

kiwisimon

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#20
This also would apply to everyone here that ignores those "20km/hr" speed limit notices painted every 3 centimeters on the river paths. What would happen to you if you get into a mishap with a pedestrian while doing 37 km/hr?
Depends whether they are public roads, aren't those signs just ad hoc ways to encourage cyclists to slow down. Not sure that they fall under "traffic laws" or not.