More on the Law

May 22, 2007
3,573
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Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#1
Regarding the penal regulations for cycling.

According to the Road Traffic Law, a bicycle is classed as a (light) vehicle. So, like motorists, cyclists in violation of the Law may be subject to penal measures.

Because there is no system stipulated in that Law which can be applied for fining cyclists, all tickets issued to cyclists will be of the red type and count as a conviction - this is more a more severe implementation than for motorists.

e.g., for ignoring a traffic signal, a motorist might be issued a 9,000 yen fixed-penalty ticket that doesn't count on their criminal record, although they'll also get two points on their driver's license. In contrast, a cyclist might receive a court summons with a maximum penalty of three month's imprisonment or a fine of up to 50,000 yen. Of course the cyclist doesn't have a cycling license so there are no points.

There is some variation among the penalties set by respective prefectural Public Safety Commissions, but typically:

Operating bicycle while drunk: up to 5 years' imprisonment or 1,000,000 fine.

Neglecting safety of pedestrians: up to 1 year imprisonment or 100,000 fine

Failing to stop at a stop line: up to 3 months' imprisonment or 50,000 fine

Failing to drive carefully (徐行) where required: up to 3 months' imprisonment or 50,000 fine

One-handed riding, applied in cases of umbrella, cellphone, headphone use, etc.): up to 3 months' imprisonment or 50,000 fine

Riding without lights during the hours of darkness: up to 50,000 fine

Changing direction suddenly and without warning: up to 50,000 fine

Riding with a passenger: up to 20,000 fine

Riding abreast: up to 20,000 fine

All of the above count as a criminal conviction and will go on the offender's criminal record!

However, there is no provision in any Law or local byelaw for a cyclist committing a traffic offense on a bicycle to have his/her driving license endorsed, suspended or revoked, no matter how severe their criminal culpability might be. The "red ticket" and its attendant fines or prison sentences are a judicial punishment, and there is no associated administrative punishment.

There is therefore absolutely no reason for a police officer who stops a cyclist (or a pedestrian) to request or demand to see their driving license, except as a form of identification. And as well all know, non-Japanese are required to carry identification (i.e., their passport, alien registration card, or MFA diplomatic ID) at all times when outside their place of residence. Not doing so is a criminal offense.

So a cyclist on a bicycle is completely within their rights to refuse to show a police officer their driving license, and the police officer is not authorized to demand it. Even so, the cyclist who is also a motorist may be assured that no cycling offense convictions will have an affect on his/her driving license.
 

astroman

Speeding Up
Mar 19, 2007
264
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Shirokanedai, Tokyo
#2
Thanks muchly for this Mike; answers a lot of questions.

As for this point:

Operating bicycle while drunk: up to 5 years' imprisonment or 1,000,000 fine.

Is it the same zero tolerance as for motorists? I would think so. And I have seen police breathalizing cyclists a couple of times during my nine years in Japan, so it can and does happen. I never drink and ride for this reason. :angel:
 
May 22, 2007
3,573
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Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#3
Is it the same zero tolerance as for motorists? I would think so.
No.

There are three similar expressions which need to be differentiated

飲酒運転 [inshu-unten] Drunken driving
This is a colloquial expression and has no legal meaning.​

酒気帯び運転 [shuki-obi-unten] Driving while under the influence of alcohol "DUI"
...means that the perpetrator is driving with more than the legal limit of alcohol in their body, as determined by a breath test and/or blood test. These tests may be part of kenmon spot checks.

There is no DUI penalty for cyclists! :bike::beer::bike:​

酒酔い運転 [sake-yoi-unten] Driving (badly) while drunk
...means that a perpetrator has been driving in a dangerous manner as a result of their consumption of alcohol.

This applies equally to motorists and cyclists. A police officer witnessing the dangerous driving has sufficient justification (probable cause) to stop a driver or cyclist and 'examine' them.

Unlike DUI, there are no set limits or measures, and the offense is not tied to the amount of alcohol in the body.

Different police forces and prosecutors have their own ideas about what does or doesn't constitute this offense.​

To summarize: as long as you are not riding your bike drunkenly, even after you've been drinking, they can't get you. However, it could end up as your word against theirs in court.

I should add a cowardly disclaimer - the above is my own independent research based on web sources, and is in no way intended to encourage anyone to drink alcohol while cycling. Apart from anything else, you'll spill your drink.
 

theBlob

Bokeh master
Sep 28, 2011
2,863
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#6
Thanks for posting this, I was wondering what the fines were and how they effect things like my driving license.
I am wondering if they ever bother to follow up on them? By this it seems that all the fines must be handed out by a judge, and not the discretion of the apprehending officer.

If so that would explain why they never bother. The hassle of dealing with is not worth their while. Nor the while of the courts who if any of this was actually seriously adhered to would very quickly grind to a halt.

My guess is that in order for it to go to court you would have these steps to follow.

A prelim visit to the station to make a statement where the officer would do his best to put words into your mouth for anything you were vague on.
The next step would be a trip to the prosecutor who would review the statement and confirm it's facts.

Last would be the court where you would be handed your decision after making a meaningless statement.

And it is my guess that if you ignored any of the above prelim steps it would disappear never to reappear again.:cool:

All of this is semi speculation on my behalf.
:angel:
 
May 22, 2007
3,573
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Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#7
You're welcome, theBlob and astroman

I have never even been stopped for a cycling infraction. So far.

theBlob, I think your analysis is insightful and mostly correct; it's a lot of hassle for the cops to issue tickets. They would generally rather educate people and have them behave in future. So most times (if we conduct ourselves in a civilized and remorseful manner) we will get away with a warning.

However, if there has been an accident, especially one in which there is a serious injury or substantial property damage, and a cyclist's disregard for the Law is deemed to be a contributory factor, then the case and the cyclist would go to court and these new, stiffer penalties would definitely come into the equation along with the customary compensation, lawyers' costs, and punitive damage awards.

(I'm not sure that prosecutors are as benign as you suggest. The ones I've met have been real nut-crushers. I can see how that might happen to someone who spends most of their working life interviewing murderers, mutilators and perverts.)

As for court - if the prosecutor determines that a fine is appropriate he will almost certainly offer the option for you to accept or reject a decision made by the court in your absence. Most people take this option, unless they are very sure they have a solid case for acquittal, because of the risk (read "normal practice") of the punishment being increased as a result of the accused's temerity in insisting on their day in court and interrupting the judges' golf plans.
 
May 22, 2007
3,573
1,398
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#8
One infraction that hasn't been mentioned, and one which I commit typically thirty or forty times a week, is cycling on a road where bicycles are not allowed.

Fortunately for me, the cops whose assignment it is to catch naughty cyclists are never on these roads, because (1) the roads are typically bridges or tunnels without sidewalks, and (2) there are (almost) no cyclists there for them to catch.

I have ridden these sections of road (along R246) thousands of times without any problems, and the benefits for me of saved time and traffic lights avoided far outweighs the safety risk*. I wouldn't try to ride a slow mamachari there, but running with the traffic at 40 to 50 kph is fine.

* N.B. My idea of what is "safe" does not match everybody else's.

I've been buzzed by motorcycle cops a couple of times, but that's all.

The penalty is up to 3 months in prison or 50,000 yen. Potentially it could turn into a very expensive day for me, one day.
 
May 22, 2007
3,573
1,398
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Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#9
Here's a traffic sign primer. Talk about the blind leading the blind...

proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Fimg153.imageshack.us%2Fimg153%2F2459%2Fcarts.jpg&hash=7c4d5e95248756a7c9677dfb2ac42407

No bicycles or Napoleonic field cannon permitted

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The writing is jitensha wo nozoku which means "except for bicycles" (Not, as some wag suggested, "Peek at bicycles". Yes, there are two verbs nozoku; to gaze/peek, and to exclude/except. Very good. Go to the top of the class. Homonym.)

So the combination of signs means "no entry except for bicycles". Often seen at the entrance to an otherwise one-way street. Be prepared to face oncoming traffic including kamikaze taxis.

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No cycling on the Rainbow Bridge. Bitches. For no adequately-explored reason the customary circle has been replaced with a rounded-off square, and hopefully the designer was subsequently taken out and shot.

proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Fimg28.imageshack.us%2Fimg28%2F9771%2Fdamxs.jpg&hash=4f2bcad7daf444475ccf72e407cfaa59

At the entrance to a tunnel through a hydroelectric dam. The sign reads "the access road is dangerous and therefore cyclists and pedestrians may not pass". I think it is referring to the part that looks suspiciously like a sidewalk. I wouldn't want to ride on that sidewalk anyway. My point in including this is that sign makers often leave out the perfectly good and easily-recognizable symbols in favor of Japanese writing. "But I don't read Japanese, officer."

proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Fimg406.imageshack.us%2Fimg406%2F741%2Fpedestriansp.jpg&hash=55f3d87937da1a5d609ae04df3220baa

Beware of really-badly-drawn pedestrian child abductors with strangely-pointed hips. ("Charley says...")
 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,429
874
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
#12
There is therefore absolutely no reason for a police officer who stops a cyclist (or a pedestrian) to request or demand to see their driving license, except as a form of identification. (...) Even so, the cyclist who is also a motorist may be assured that no cycling offense convictions will have an affect on his/her driving license.
Are you sure about that, Mike?

Last time I had my Japanese driving license renewed I had to watch one of those safety instruction films and listen to a presentation. Unless my Japanese failed me, they warned us you could lose "gold license" status (for accident free driving for x years (5?)) and the associated insurance discounts for traffic violations not including motor vehicles, such as riding a bicycle while drunk.
 
May 22, 2007
3,573
1,398
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#13
Last time I had my Japanese driving license renewed I had to watch one of those safety instruction films and listen to a presentation.
Yeah, I did the same a couple of weeks ago.
...they warned us you could lose "gold license" status (for accident free driving for x years (5?)) and the associated insurance discounts for traffic violations not including motor vehicles, such as riding a bicycle while drunk.
Now that is interesting. Contrasts with what I've read, but not everything on the web is always 100% correct. I'm setting up a meeting with the head of the police station's traffic division, so I will make sure to ask this question.
 
#14
Are you sure about that, Mike?

Last time I had my Japanese driving license renewed I had to watch one of those safety instruction films and listen to a presentation. Unless my Japanese failed me, they warned us you could lose "gold license" status (for accident free driving for x years (5?)) and the associated insurance discounts for traffic violations not including motor vehicles, such as riding a bicycle while drunk.
I still recall being very surprised and thinking to myself "how typically Japanese!" when I saw that passage in the film 2 years ago when I got my license renewed. Anyways, the "gold" status for impeccably exemplary driving is of course a huge joke (all paper drivers - including myself :eek: - have this 優良 status) !
 
Jun 9, 2011
241
1
36
tokyo
#15
I think that was Mike's attempt at humour.
i kind of figured it was as it was was pretty funny. i think the signs are also humorous for what they are. the first time i saw one i though "ha! who's still wandering around japanese roads hauling their wares on one of those things?" then a few days later i saw an old guy dressed like he'd just emerged from a woodblock print pushing a niguruma loaded with vegetables on a busy road. my mind was blown.
 

Ludwig

Speeding Up
Oct 9, 2008
871
0
36
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
#16
Anyways, the "gold" status for impeccably exemplary driving is of course a huge joke (all paper drivers - including myself :eek: - have this 優良 status) !
Yeah, and some like me lose it merely because the renewal reminder never made it to me, I missed renewal within 30 days of my birthday and so had to get a new license with my unblemished long record all being wiped out. Incredibly stupid bureaucracy. And I was still lucky to realise a few months after the fact. If it's over half a year too late, you have to go through absolutely everything from the start, not just paper work, longer videos and higher fees.
 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,429
874
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
#17
I know someone who did just that, as she had forgotten to update the address on her D/L after moving to a different apartment and hence the reminder post card was mailed to the wrong address. By the time she realized it was over 6 months later. She had to take driving lessons and multiple practical tests to get it back, costing her about 35 man if I remember correctly.

In the practical test, if you don't bend down and look under the car before you get in, you have already failed it. The whole D/L related administration here is a huge job creation scheme for active and former cops.

Living with a bike is a lot easier :)