Getting in lane - beginners question

Mar 20, 2012
42
0
16
Tokyo
#1
Hi all,

As promised, I have a daft question to ask, most relevant to cycling in cities/bicycle commuting :eek:

I don't have a driving license and have never even had lessons, so riding my road bike is the first experience I have ever had of piloting on roads amongst traffic. As a result of this, I tried to read up as much as possible on the rules of the road, especially for cyclists. A lot of the American/British websites I looked at advised (amongst other things) that bicycles get in lane for where they want to go, just like all other traffic. What I'm wondering is, should I be aiming to do this in Tokyo or not? The main reason I ask is that I consistently notice the majority of other cyclists tend not to get in lane, and rather stick to the far left at almost all times - even if this means going straight ahead from a left-turn only lane, or at intersections riding straight to the opposite side of the road and then sitting in front of the line of stopped traffic from the left hand side instead of getting in lane for a right-hand turn. Yesterday morning on my usual route to work down Aoyama-dori, as I approached the large intersection at Aoyama-itchome on a green light I got into the "go straight" lane instead of staying to the far-left in order to avoid the left-turn only lane, but a taxi-driver who came up behind me apparently wasn't a fan. I realize that one of the best ways to stay safe is to be predictable to other road users, which makes me wonder if I shouldn't be just staying left like most other people I see.
(As a note Aoyama-dori is particularly hair-raising for me because of the pace of the traffic and the number of lanes, but as it takes me practically straight to my office it's somewhat unavoidable)

I have literally only been cycling on the roads since I bought my road bike about a month and a half ago (before then I commuted on the pavement/sidewalk), so I consider myself to still be on my equivalent to a provisional license! I realize exercising common sense on the road you are riding on plays a role, but if anyone has any generally good advice about this it would be gratefully received! m(_ _)m :bike:
 

kpykc

Speeding Up
Jun 13, 2007
804
4
38
38
Tokyo
#2
If you want a safe and not-super-fast commute you should stick to the left side and wait behind the cars, when they are stopping for a red light.

All this cycling hype - "we are vehicles and should behave like ones" sounds crazy to me. Cyclists are cyclists (ok,ok small vehicles), cars are cars, don't ride like you are a car - taking entire lane, making right turns on super busy intersections, etc. and everything will be peachy :)
 
Dec 17, 2011
267
8
38
kanazawa
#3
don't ride like you are a car - taking entire lane, making right turns on super busy intersections, etc. and everything will be peachy :)
I'm sorry but I personally disagree. After staying 3 months here in Tokyo and riding every day to work, the most stressing experiences I had were when I was driving on the far left side of the lane. Cars would just raze me by without a second thought. I strongly believe that there are times when it is appropriate to take the whole (left) lane to yourself, just to protect you. Other cars will begrudgingly stay behind you but you will be at least safe. Just return the favor and let them pass you when you reach a less frenzy section of the road.

Now regarding right turns, the consensus (and the law) say that they are forbidden. In big junctions it is better to step off the bicycle, get to the junction and cross it with the pedestrians, even if it means waiting for the traffic lights. Personally, I did respect this in most "cross" junctions, but I wouldn't hesitate to turn right when I come from the lower part of a "T" junction that is controlled by a traffic light.

I had similar questions in my self introduction post, there's also a linked cycling hand book there, with lots of common sense in it. Just... reverse right and left :cool:
 
Sep 2, 2009
5
0
0
#4
^Ha, while I do agree with Sergei, I pretty much do the mirror opposite of what he suggests.

I find it better, as it gives me more space for people pulling out from side roads on me, on the left.

It also makes me more of a Mad Max style badman, and the more aggressive ****ty drivers really hate me.

Win Win.

(If you wish to send flowers to my impending funeral, contact my mother).
 

kpykc

Speeding Up
Jun 13, 2007
804
4
38
38
Tokyo
#5
ok, there is ambiguity in "left side", "far left", etc. Just use your judgement and common sense - 1/4 or 1/3 or even the whole of the lane (depending on the situation). Just know your place on the road. If it's a one lane road with fast moving cars - better to stop and let them through sometimes, and not push the boundaries of driver's patience, etc. There are many situations, so for an unexperienced rider it is better to ride defensively

...the most stressing experiences I had were when I was driving on the far left side of the lane. Cars would just raze me by without a second thought. I strongly believe that there are times when it is appropriate to take the whole (left) lane to yourself, just to protect you. Other cars will begrudgingly stay behind you but you will be at least safe. Just return the favor and let them pass you when you reach a less frenzy section of the road.
 
Sep 2, 2009
5
0
0
#6
Agree with all that.

Akage38; I think the best thing to do would be to get out on a few short sessions around the city, to see how the more experienced people ride. You will learn a lot like this.
 
Mar 20, 2012
42
0
16
Tokyo
#7
Thanks so much for the replies everyone, and sorry I missed Eimaiosatanas' earlier similar question and responses (which I have now also checked out).
I was concerned that "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down... by a car!" might be a proverb true of the roads in Japan, and judging by the replies below it seems probably my hunch was correct in that it is best to be doing as others do (with the exception perhaps of the stranger Japanese cycling habits involving riding with an umbrella/cigarette/burger/mobile phone)


If you want a safe and not-super-fast commute you should stick to the left side and wait behind the cars, when they are stopping for a red light.

All this cycling hype - "we are vehicles and should behave like ones" sounds crazy to me. Cyclists are cyclists (ok,ok small vehicles), cars are cars, don't ride like you are a car - taking entire lane, making right turns on super busy intersections, etc. and everything will be peachy :)
Thanks, and yes I wondered a bit about the "behaving like cars" thing as well, after all I am soft and squishy and they are big metal boxes! :eek:
I suppose my concern is that if I try to go straight in a left-turn only lane then a car might left hook into me, but perhaps drivers coming up behind are more considerate and aware than I have so far given credit (although I would still prefer not to assume this!)

I'm sorry but I personally disagree. After staying 3 months here in Tokyo and riding every day to work, the most stressing experiences I had were when I was driving on the far left side of the lane. Cars would just raze me by without a second thought. I strongly believe that there are times when it is appropriate to take the whole (left) lane to yourself, just to protect you. Other cars will begrudgingly stay behind you but you will be at least safe. Just return the favor and let them pass you when you reach a less frenzy section of the road.

Now regarding right turns, the consensus (and the law) say that they are forbidden. In big junctions it is better to step off the bicycle, get to the junction and cross it with the pedestrians, even if it means waiting for the traffic lights. Personally, I did respect this in most "cross" junctions, but I wouldn't hesitate to turn right when I come from the lower part of a "T" junction that is controlled by a traffic light.

I had similar questions in my self introduction post, there's also a linked cycling hand book there, with lots of common sense in it. Just... reverse right and left :cool:
Thanks for the help, and the great references back to your introduction! Great noobs think alike, hey ;)
Actually I had no idea up until now that right-turns were forbidden! I have broken this rule a few times already, and that DEFINITELY explains why I have never seen a right-hand turn done by anyone else!! (thought it was a bit weird...) That's a pretty damn useful bit of information to find out...

Agree with all that.

Akage38; I think the best thing to do would be to get out on a few short sessions around the city, to see how the more experienced people ride. You will learn a lot like this.
I completely agree, and in fact when I first started nervously cycling on the roads I did really wish I had someone experienced to show me the ropes (this was before I realized cycling communities existed, I had always thought of it as a pretty solo pursuit). I have managed to get the hang of the basics by throwing myself in at the deep end and just getting on with it, but I have certainly had my share of hairy moments resulting from silly mistakes. Luckily have lived to tell the tale (so far...), but there is still much to be learnt... so hope to get out for riding with some others sometime in the near-ish future! :bike:
 

theDude

Maximum Pace
Oct 7, 2011
773
111
63
Tokyo
app.strava.com
#8
ok, there is ambiguity in "left side", "far left", etc. Just use your judgement and common sense - 1/4 or 1/3 or even the whole of the lane (depending on the situation). Just know your place on the road. If it's a one lane road with fast moving cars - better to stop and let them through sometimes, and not push the boundaries of driver's patience, etc. There are many situations, so for an unexperienced rider it is better to ride defensively

Yup, agree with that. Each city/country seems to have it's own 'way' to get along with traffic. This goes for whether you are in a car, motorcycle, or bicycle. Takes some time to get used to, if nothing else to follow, just follow what others are doing if it's not too uncomfortable.



Japan has 50cc scooters, which have their own rules (like two-point right turns), bicycles seem to generally need to follow these. In 1st world countries, bicycles seem to be able to follow along with traffic. I don't do that so much here.... cars don't expect it, which means it's a good way to get hit.
 

Tamir

Speeding Up
Aug 19, 2011
56
0
26
35
Tokyo
www.facebook.com
#9
Speed is a very important factor. If you're going about the same speed as the cars (30-40km/h on a smaller road) then you can ride like a car and take lots of space.

On major roads like Aoyama-dori where the speed difference is much greater, you have to be defensive and stay to the left (on straightaways). Parked cars are a two-edged sword--they often take up the left lane but leave a small corridor for you to ride along, but sometimes they pull out/open doors/are huge dump trucks which take up the whole lane. If you have that corridor, use it (carefully). If it ever closes (e.g. there's a huge truck parked there), then do a SHOULDER CHECK before (gingerly yet confidently) moving out into the 2nd lane. NEVER ride along the dotted line; it will invite drivers to try to pass you with no room to spare and can be very dangerous.

Always look far ahead. If you see a bunch of cars lined up to turn left, pick your moment and move out into the next lane to pass them on the outside.

Right turns are technically illegal, but sometimes you just have to go for it. ;) Just be careful about it. Protected rights (the green arrow) are the easiest and you can sometimes make them from the far left lane.

Watch out for taxis, which pull over and open their left doors or pull out without warning, and for buses, which are wide and slow and take 2 hours to merge into traffic from the left lane.:rolleyes:

Also, wear a helmet just in case.:warau:

Good luck.
 
Mar 20, 2012
42
0
16
Tokyo
#10
Yup, agree with that. Each city/country seems to have it's own 'way' to get along with traffic. This goes for whether you are in a car, motorcycle, or bicycle. Takes some time to get used to, if nothing else to follow, just follow what others are doing if it's not too uncomfortable.



Japan has 50cc scooters, which have their own rules (like two-point right turns), bicycles seem to generally need to follow these. In 1st world countries, bicycles seem to be able to follow along with traffic. I don't do that so much here.... cars don't expect it, which means it's a good way to get hit.
This pretty much perfectly sums up my concerns about cycling the way some American/European websites advise, but I didn't have the confidence as a beginner to disregard the apparently established rules. I'm glad I consulted the wise minds here!
Interesting point about 50cc scooters too, that would also explain the funny maneuvers I see them make sometimes!

Speed is a very important factor. If you're going about the same speed as the cars (30-40km/h on a smaller road) then you can ride like a car and take lots of space.

On major roads like Aoyama-dori where the speed difference is much greater, you have to be defensive and stay to the left (on straightaways). Parked cars are a two-edged sword--they often take up the left lane but leave a small corridor for you to ride along, but sometimes they pull out/open doors/are huge dump trucks which take up the whole lane. If you have that corridor, use it (carefully). If it ever closes (e.g. there's a huge truck parked there), then do a SHOULDER CHECK before (gingerly yet confidently) moving out into the 2nd lane. NEVER ride along the dotted line; it will invite drivers to try to pass you with no room to spare and can be very dangerous.

Always look far ahead. If you see a bunch of cars lined up to turn left, pick your moment and move out into the next lane to pass them on the outside.

Right turns are technically illegal, but sometimes you just have to go for it. ;) Just be careful about it. Protected rights (the green arrow) are the easiest and you can sometimes make them from the far left lane.

Watch out for taxis, which pull over and open their left doors or pull out without warning, and for buses, which are wide and slow and take 2 hours to merge into traffic from the left lane.:rolleyes:

Also, wear a helmet just in case.:warau:

Good luck.
Thanks very much for the advice! I still wince as I pass parked cars having been indoctrinated on the lessons of the "door zone" from the internet, however in reality I often find it hard to give them as much space as is recommended. I was heartened the other day though, when a taxi started to open its passenger door, noticed me, and then shut it again. This particular taxi also had blue lights going down the edge of the door which made it very easy for me to see. If only all drivers were this mindful!
I will definitely bare the dotted line thing in mind too - I have to confess to being guilty to this, and I have indeed had some drivers (especially van drivers for some reason) pass so close I could feel the wind they were generating from their movement... scary stuff :eek:uch:
 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,435
883
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
#11
I also vary my behaviour based on the environment, either claiming a lane, staying close to the edge or even moving to the side walk. It all depends on how many lanes there, how full they are with other traffic and how fast traffic is moving on them.
 

Akage38

Cruising
Mar 20, 2012
42
0
16
Tokyo
#12
I also vary my behaviour based on the environment, either claiming a lane, staying close to the edge or even moving to the side walk. It all depends on how many lanes there, how full they are with other traffic and how fast traffic is moving on them.
So I guess it sounds like experience plays an important role as well then. Incidentally I got out for my first beginners Half Fast ride on Sunday, and this was the impression I got from the variations in the way we rode according to different parts of town. Really glad to have been able to have had that experience! :)
 
Sep 2, 2009
5
0
0
#13
Ah, good that you got out for a ride. How did it go? Pace alright, and all that.

And yeah, like you observed, you will need to modify your riding for the environment you are in. There is pretty much no getting away from the dickhead van drivers / SUV drivers who swish past one with inches to spare, but Karma will get them one of these days.
 

Akage38

Cruising
Mar 20, 2012
42
0
16
Tokyo
#14
Ah, good that you got out for a ride. How did it go? Pace alright, and all that.

And yeah, like you observed, you will need to modify your riding for the environment you are in. There is pretty much no getting away from the dickhead van drivers / SUV drivers who swish past one with inches to spare, but Karma will get them one of these days.
Yes it was good thanks, pace was fine though my legs were pretty sore later on - probably partly thanks to previously mentioned tendency to cycle in too high a gear, though I daresay my fitness also still leaves a lot to be desired. But it's a start I guess, and I'm looking forward to working towards some longer rides - just looking at the forums of peoples' rides around places like Izu/Shizuoka I'm really excited by the prospect of being able to escape the concrete jungle now and again! (and properly escape too, not just go climb Takao-san where there is still loads of people!)