Pedestrian Matters?

Aug 17, 2007
121
0
36
Yotsuya, Tokyo
#1
Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm getting old and cranky. Maybe it's the season. Then again, maybe it really is them! The pedestrians, I mean.

I've had two run-ins in as many weeks with arrogant pedestrians who refuse to give ground or to even make the slightest effort to avoid a collision. Anyway, this morning's run-in became my third bicycle accident in Tokyo since I arrived here three years ago. I'm okay physically, and so is the bike as far as I can tell. But my pants are ruined, and my faith in a certain segment of humanity lies in tatters!

I was cycling past Azabu High School and the Qatar Embassy, and there was a salaryman walking towards me in the road. Since he made eye-contact with me and the sidewalk was immediately to his right (my left), I figured he would step up onto the pavement as I approached him. There were no people on the sidewalk, so he could have done so at any moment without seriously inconveniencing himself. And it was, after all, my right of way.

However, he decided not to, and simply kept walking right at me! By the time I figured out we were playing "chicken," I could only swerve slightly. But he had a bag, and the horn of my handlebar caught in its strap as we passed each other, twisting my front wheel and sending me sailing over the bars.

As if that wasn't bad enough (I ruined a good pair of pants), when I looked up, he just kept walking on his way. I was sprawled on the road, and the fall had evidently been hard, so the least I expected was an inquiry into my well-being, or a word of - dare I say it? - apology. I got nothing, but a glare over his shoulder as he shouldered his bag. I was so angry that I yelled profanity at him in English. Once again I couldn't help feeling that if I had known enough Japanese I would have challenged him for being a bloody-minded idiot for NOT stepping onto the pavement when there was oncoming traffic!

As I said, I am okay, but my pants are ruined totally and I am extremely bitter and frustrated. This sort of thing happens once in a while, but I cannot help but wonder what is going through a person's mind when they know they are wrong, but continue to push anyway.

Thoughts? Stories? Theories?
 

Wolfman

Speeding Up
Jul 31, 2007
631
18
38
Suginamiku
#2
Very sorry to hear about your crash and I hope that you're ok.

This is just how it is in Tokyo. In any station or street, but especially the busy ones, people walk at you rather than show any courtesy or politeness. I'm not sure why this is like this.

It irritated the hell out of me for years, and still does, but now I just ignore it and walk at people as if there is nothing there. The trick is to shut out all distractions as if you don't notice them, and never flinch first: leave that to the opposition. Often they have a kind of look of shock when you're standing over them, other times you just get a shoulder barge that would result in a fight back home, but here is just shrugged off. You can get away with a lot.

If I did cycle, I would avoid other people/mama charis like the plague due to their unpredictable nature.
 

lylen

Speeding Up
Apr 30, 2008
57
0
26
Tokyo
#3
Stuff like that always happens to nice people. Sorry to hear about it. The guy is mentally ill and probably doesn't know it. People have done similar things to me. I think the anger and frustration will pass, what can you do? Just the obvious, be even more careful than you already are, try to avoid strange behavior even if they seem conscious of what's going on their behavior tells you they've got a screw loose. That's why I think it's some kind of mental illness.
 

Kaffekata

Warming-Up
Apr 27, 2008
51
0
0
Tokyo, Jpn
#4
I think I can understand how you feel. I had an encounter that left me bitter and frustrated, but I was the pedestrian. An old lady (obatarian) on a mama chari came charging throught a crowded sidewalk when I was in a hurry to catch a train. In the process, her bicycle basket tore the inner lining of my expensive suit coat, but she never stopped. I didn't chase after her cause I needed to catch that train. I was really upset all the way to my appointment.
Since then, I've been very wary of those old ladies on bikes. Most try to be nice but there are a few.

As for pedestrians on the streets (there are many), I try to avoid them even if I have a "right-of-way." My prime directive whenever I'm on a bike is to get there safely and without incident. I think I'll live longer and happier following this rule.
 

evan06

Warming-Up
Jul 23, 2007
103
0
0
Yokosuka
#5
A large air horn works wonderfully, scares the crap out of people. Fortunately, down here in Yokosuka pedestrians are not my concern, its the damn freaks who ride on the mopeds with their wanna be harley mufflers. A day does not go by where I want to take their keys and throw them in a gutter. Sorry, just how I feel. Oh well, that is the joy of living in Japan.

James
 

Davad

Warming-Up
Oct 15, 2008
116
0
0
Koto-ku, Tokyo
#6
I think the crucial error was the eye contact. Remember it`s a different social contract here: he became absolved of all responsibility as soon as you made eye contact because you are on the bike and he`s walking (so he has right of way) - forget trying to apply any logic to it or you WILL go crazy. But you gotta accept it. On foot, I navigate crowds by resolutely refraining from making eye contact with people I identify as having potentially intersecting trajectories. If I do make eye contact then often I will have to assume 100% of the responsibility for avoiding the collision. More fascinating/irritating are the people who seem for all the world to INTENTIONALLY change their trajectory to collide with me, without allowing me time enough to take evasive action. I often wonder if a, these people are insane or retarded, or b, it is some kind of deep passive/aggressive maneuver and therefor a kind of actual physical assault. I`m speaking of walking here, but it holds for cycling and of course for driving, whereby vehicles will pull out in front of oncoming traffic that has the right of way, seemingly suicidally...
I also notice that if I want to cut across a stream of moving people, I will either speed up incrementally or pause a little, so as to avoid colliding with individuals. But here again the social contract is different, and it seems to me like everyone has to share the responsibility for everyone else: I often encounter people in crowds who want to cross in front of me as I`m walking with a flow of people, but they don`t move quickly or hold up for a moment, to prevent collision, instead they intentionally move into a position where I am going to hit them if I don`t take evasive action. That, or they cut behind be and kick my foot as they pass too closely. I guess I am supposed to speed up a little to accomodate their needs. Anyway I often catch myself trying analyze what on earth people are thinking here.
Maybe even this way makes more sense, given the crowding here. But it certainly doesn`t make it any less irritating.
 

lylen

Speeding Up
Apr 30, 2008
57
0
26
Tokyo
#7
He was walking in the street, therefore not sure about the right of way point.
However, the rest rings true to me and the experiences are shared. I've improved greatly as a rider here, but has taken many many rides to get to this point and I still get ticked at least once every other ride. Morning seems to be the worst. The popping on to the road coming the other way and riding towards me as I'm trying to stay to the left to allow traffic to flow by is my pet peve right now. Hard to judge when it's going to happen and how the rider will react to you.
 

marc

Speeding Up
#8
If the street is empty I usually just go around and forget about them. If that's risky, I find that a good (though inconvenient) strategy is simply to stop. It forces the other person to go around and usually makes them realizes they're inconveniencing someone else. Of course, it only has an effect if you're where the traffic laws say you should be, and they're not. This works best with the mamacharis coming down busy streets on the wrong side of the road, I've actually heard oba-chans apologize as they go by.
 
Aug 17, 2007
121
0
36
Yotsuya, Tokyo
#9
Thanks - and Point(s) Taken!

Thanks for your concern and your thoughts!

Your comments are interesting, and I did a bit of thinking about my own culpability during the night. Yes, I was at fault, too, for not having done more to avoid the conflict. I suppose, also, that we get sloppy and over-confident with our cycling, so every once in a while we need a little incident to set us thinking about safety again.

My wife offered the following in the man's defense: That he may have been embarrassed by the serious outcome and that he may have worried about his ability to communicate in English. A friend noted that the man might have feared liability action, although he was quick to add that the cyclist is almost always nailed to the wall during investigations of accidents involving pedestrians.

Bottom line: I need to remain vigilant at all times; I need to actively avoid all potential collisions regardless of whose perceived/actual right of way it may be; and I need to stop taking such incidents personally.

Another of life's little experiences where the test comes first and the lesson after...
 

sakura

Cruising
May 15, 2009
29
0
11
Tokyo
#10
You and Lance Armstrong both...

I’m sorry to hear about your predicament.

I also find that a night’s sleep always adds immeasurable clarity to incidents I’ve had during the previous day.

There are many factors at work at here. It’s very possible you did everything right in the situation and this man just happened to have a bad day. Maybe he even just got fired! I would tend to think the answer has less to do with logic or common sense and more to do with cultural differences.

I’m by no means an expert and have had my share of close calls with dangerous and inattentive pedestrians. However, from what I can gather the right of way is always given—weather you are a car, pedestrian or cyclist depending on…well many, many different factors that I’m still trying to figure out.

From my observation, if you’re a cyclist then pedestrians have the right of way; if you’re a driver then cyclists have the right of way. However, if you’re a cyclist and you force the right of way then usually it will be given—that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right or inline with cultural norms. Likewise, you may be correctly climbing a staircase on the left (上り) side at a train station, but an offloading hoard of people will force their right of way down both sides of the staircase.

Generally, I always give the benefit of doubt to children and (most) elderly and come to a complete stop if necessary. On the other hand, adults and teenagers should know better before stepping into a busy street.

Look on the bright side. You now have something in common with Lance Armstrong! He was also brought down by a pedestrian on Stage 15 of the 2003 Tour de France while climbing the slopes of the Tourmalet when his handbars got tangled in the straps of a feedbag!:D
 

trad

Maximum Pace
Dec 4, 2006
393
30
48
Tokyo
#11
Glad you are ok.... most important thing. I think previous post is a good view...

My understanding in Japan is that the larger vehicle assumes majority of liability in collisions by default. Given this, I think there is a good chance cyclist would assume majority liability. If the pedestrian says "I need ambulance" then it becomes the pretty sticky personal injury situation - that many people in Japan have insurance for...
 
Aug 17, 2007
121
0
36
Yotsuya, Tokyo
#12
Rough-handled like the best of 'em!

Yes, I remember the video clip - and Lance's recovery and subsequent crawl back to the front of the pack. That was the same stage he had pedal-clip failure and nearly canned himself, wasn't? Not that I have so much riding on my daily commute, but sometimes work does seem to be the same sort of grind as a TF mountain stage!

But, about handle-bars. I have a commuter bike with wide bars and Spanish bull-horn style bar-ends. But not for much longer. I dreamt about a hacksaw last night. Then again, maybe I should use my metal file to hone the bar-ends to a vicious point...

Seriously, though, any ideas out there about safer bar-end designs, sizes or makes?

What about thoughts on manageable handle-bar widths more suited to the crowded thoroughfares of Tokyo? What makes, lengths, etc., would you recommend for a Scott Sub 20 commuter?
 

lylen

Speeding Up
Apr 30, 2008
57
0
26
Tokyo
#13
Sublights comments about coming to a complete stop is excellent. It is exactly the sort of strategies I have been slowly coming to understand living here.
There was yet another comment that misses the essential point that the man was walking in the road, not the sidewalk.
Anyways this isn't so much about traffic laws and cultural differences. I don't understand what's cultural about walking in the street the wrong way into traffic. Ultimately to me it's about survival to ride another day as safely and strongly as possible.
 
Jan 14, 2007
2,514
213
83
Noda
japanichiban.com
#14
Foreigners tend to react in the opposite when a problem arises... and this is when things can get worse when the reaction causes an accident.

When I can, I stop in front of oncoming idiots on the wrong side of the road, as if you decide to go left or right it becomes a game of craps. Odds are that you will one day collide.

I'd also hate to see Japan go the way of suing everybody that causes an accident but I think that is one way to make this problem improve a little.

The next time I'm involved in an accident that I'm sure is not my fault I'm going to push the envelope as far as possible. It just becomes too annoying to hear these stories all the time and more often.

Police here will always try and sweep an accident under the carpet if they can..

Always get your camera out and take a photo of the offender. Ask for their business card or look at their driver's license. You have to be arrogant I think and act like the crazy gaijin (in the case of damage or injury).
It may not be the Japanese way but Japan has to learn that not everybody in Japan is Japanese and that by bending the rules may be OK for everybody else but there are people who have a different sense of abiding by the law.

One of my friends who I think reads this site was side swiped by a van on his MTB and the car just drove off. He chased it down and stopped in front of the van, got his camera out...took a photo of the car's registration plates, the driver etc. The driver got out and complained about privacy and not taking photos like that. The van had the guys company logos all over it so my friend called his boss and told him what had happened...

The tide turned then as the guy's job was now involved... The guy ended up coming to visit my friend with his boss and with gifts and with a big embarrassing apology.

Chances are that guy walks along that road the same time every day... STALK HIM!!!

Turn the tables...
 

nynihonjin

Warming-Up
Apr 28, 2009
16
0
0
Chuo-Ku, Tokyo
#15
There are always that select few that completely reverse the image of the Japanese people as polite and altruistic. In the last 9 years that I've been here, there are times when local attitude and behavior become so unbearable that I myself am ashamed to be Japanese.

Three months into what was going to be an eternity here in Japan, a quick run-in on the Chiyoda-Line nearly left me bragging for a fight as those who quickly congregate in front of the doors (despite an empty train) isn't much of a problem (I've seen worse being born and raised in NYC) however, when one is about to deboard the train, you would expect a hint of etiquette in allowing the person to remove himself without having his social circle violated. A quick scuffing of shoulders left three middle aged men screaming at me while I quickly fired back a sentence in Japanese "Why dont you get off the train so that we can both discuss this?". The arguement gently ended as the doors closed and the train rumbled out of the station.
I never saw the group of men again despite taking the same train around the same time for the next three years.

Another situation and probably the most memorable (judging by the level of pain involved) was during my usual commute home via road bike. Coming from Akasaka and having to wind through the back streets of Higashi-Ginza, I proceeded travel up a street (1 lane x 1 lane) where I was forced to weave around a parked car. The car travelling behind me must of been irritated by this behavior and thus crossed into the oncoming lane to quickly overtake me. In the process, the car kicked some heavy road debris into the front of my wheel which caused an instataneous lock up and a "rodeo" styled vault over my handlebars and into the pavement. I woke up in the middle of the road looking at the back of the car as he stopped (lit brake lights) but quickly buzzed off to ignore my body strewn across the pavement.

The result, a mangled front wheel, sprained wrist and jammed fingers, an elbow that felt like it was broken and a bloodied chin and cheek. It amazed me as onlookers just stared from across the street and with hesitation to help me out. I was outright shocked by how cold "tokyo-ites" could be and to a certain extent left a bad taste in my mouth to be Japanese as well.

I'm still riding the same bike to this day with a dent in my toptube as a sore reminder of what was and what could possibly happen again.
 

massa

Warming-Up
Feb 22, 2008
174
0
0
Setagayaku
#16
Hi andrew,

Traffic law allows bikers to ride on limited sidewalks in case it is displayed that bikes are available.
Even if bikers ride on allowed sidewalks, they have to take care of pedestrians not to disturbers them. It is needless to say you can't ring alarm bells against them pedestrians.
So, in case there would be no space to pass through, bikers push their bikes. You should check traffic law first of all, thanks.


Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm getting old and cranky. Maybe it's the season. Then again, maybe it really is them! The pedestrians, I mean.

I've had two run-ins in as many weeks with arrogant pedestrians who refuse to give ground or to even make the slightest effort to avoid a collision. Anyway, this morning's run-in became my third bicycle accident in Tokyo since I arrived here three years ago. I'm okay physically, and so is the bike as far as I can tell. But my pants are ruined, and my faith in a certain segment of humanity lies in tatters!

I was cycling past Azabu High School and the Qatar Embassy, and there was a salaryman walking towards me in the road. Since he made eye-contact with me and the sidewalk was immediately to his right (my left), I figured he would step up onto the pavement as I approached him. There were no people on the sidewalk, so he could have done so at any moment without seriously inconveniencing himself. And it was, after all, my right of way.

However, he decided not to, and simply kept walking right at me! By the time I figured out we were playing "chicken," I could only swerve slightly. But he had a bag, and the horn of my handlebar caught in its strap as we passed each other, twisting my front wheel and sending me sailing over the bars.

As if that wasn't bad enough (I ruined a good pair of pants), when I looked up, he just kept walking on his way. I was sprawled on the road, and the fall had evidently been hard, so the least I expected was an inquiry into my well-being, or a word of - dare I say it? - apology. I got nothing, but a glare over his shoulder as he shouldered his bag. I was so angry that I yelled profanity at him in English. Once again I couldn't help feeling that if I had known enough Japanese I would have challenged him for being a bloody-minded idiot for NOT stepping onto the pavement when there was oncoming traffic!

As I said, I am okay, but my pants are ruined totally and I am extremely bitter and frustrated. This sort of thing happens once in a while, but I cannot help but wonder what is going through a person's mind when they know they are wrong, but continue to push anyway.

Thoughts? Stories? Theories?
 
Aug 17, 2007
121
0
36
Yotsuya, Tokyo
#17
Clarification

My original post has generated spirited discussion, but there appears to be some misunderstanding about the situation.

The man I encountered was walking in the gutter of the street, not on a sidewalk or pedestrian route. I was cycling on the correct side of the road (left) just off the gutter. We did not collide physically, but the strap of his bag hooked my handle-bar, bringing me down. As far as I could tell, the man did not fall, although his shoulder was obviously wrenched pretty hard. He simply re-shouldered his bag and kept walking (on the sidewalk, now I think of it).

When I ride on the sidewalk, I always slow down, keep my hands on the brakes at all times, and acknowledge with a nod any person who makes even the slightest motion to give space. In fact, I go out of my way to give way to all pedestrian traffic when I am on their turf (and I give other cyclists a wide berth).

So, I expect pedestrians to do the same for me when they step into the road. I think x was right earlier when he said that it has nothing to do with culture, but everything to do with society. Here are two thoughts that occurred to me over the last few days:

1) Ironically, the more global we become, the less concerned we appear to be with the well-being and feelings of those around us. This is, as I say, a global trend, and not even a super-polite and socially-aware culture such as Japan is immune. Society idolizes the individual, and emphasizes open competition.

2) Awareness of our social footprint derives in part from our home environment, our family & friends, and the formal educations we receive in schools & universities. Since people are becoming increasingly unaware of the impact they have on others, I am forced to conclude that this is no longer emphasized in our upbringing. I do not say that people are intentionally rude to one another, although there are definitely cases of this, but rather that they are simply unaware of the consequences of their behavior.

Don't get me wrong: These are generalizations and I'm not an anthropologist much less a psychologist. The solution seems simple, too: I must intentionally seek opportunities to demonstrate best behavior towards others.

Something I'm not sure I did very well the other morning as I cut too close to that man regardless of whose right of way it was!
 

kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,655
474
103
Japan
#18
The solution seems simple, too: I must intentionally seek opportunities to demonstrate best behavior towards others.

Something I'm not sure I did very well the other morning as I cut too close to that man regardless of whose right of way it was!
A true learning moment indeed:thumb: This is one of those times when right is not always best. In the spirit of DC "Poe: We pay tribute to our beloved Nun-Chi. The sage says: A man is born gentle and weak. At his death, he is hard and cold. Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death, they are withered and dry. Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life". Ride safe.(unless your racing)
 

Ash

Warming-Up
Apr 23, 2006
686
1
0
shakujiidai, nerima ku, tokyo
#19
A true learning moment indeed:thumb: This is one of those times when right is not always best. In the spirit of DC "Poe: We pay tribute to our beloved Nun-Chi. The sage says: A man is born gentle and weak. At his death, he is hard and cold. Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death, they are withered and dry. Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life". Ride safe.(unless your racing)
Ya, the worst thing really is that he did not stop and see how you were. As someone who commutes daily and who has had 2 crashes due to pedestrians (who nearly always have right of way) the only lesson is - avoid them. If it is not a pedestrian walking down the wrong side of the road it is a mama chari hell bent on collision.

Slow down, avoid them, ride safe.

I tend to be a bit imperious and when I see them walking or riding down the wrong side of the road I wave at them rather dismissively to tell them to get lost. If I hit one of them (again) I would follow Edogawakikoman's advice and go for the throat! Call the cops, threaten to call the cops and demand to see driver's licence or whatever. At least get an apology. Or money!

Know how you feel though...
 

Davad

Warming-Up
Oct 15, 2008
116
0
0
Koto-ku, Tokyo
#20
One thing that always tempers my irritation/amazement here is reflecting on the reaction of my friend who lives here now but lived for a while in Beijing: every time I get frustrated with the kind of issues being discussed here in this thread, he just rolls his eyes and says, `you have nooooooo idea how much worse it could be`.