Question about your safety while out in the countryside

adventurous cyclist

turtle speed cyclist
May 16, 2019
331
305
83
66
Ube -shi, Yamaguchi-ken
Theres been some weird crimes going on and I wonder if you folks carry any type of protection against the bad guys out there. Believe it or not , Im only 5 feet 3 inches. , Other then the city roads, Im out in the no mans land. If I get a flat and have to change it, and some weirdo pulls over... But this is something Ive had on my mind. You guys ever think of this? So I started to carry something for my protection. Not sure if it is legal though.
 

kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
3,005
896
133
Japan
I have never ever thought of it.
The chances of a weirdo being out on the very road you have a puncture at the very same time aren't worth the mental bandwidth. You have a phone and the police number is 110. Enjoy the ride.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sean-e

andywood

Maximum Pace
Apr 8, 2008
2,234
2,013
133
Niigata
If you are wondering if something is illegal, it probably is!

My kids are paranoid about bears when we go for a ride. I tell them this all the time, "by far the biggest danger for a cyclist is being hit by a car".

Focus your energy on avoiding this.

In the extremely unlikely event that someone tries to attack you, human or animal, hit them with your bike!

Andy
 

Gunjira

Maximum Pace
Oct 2, 2009
1,028
211
83
Tokyo
It’s like with the bears. They are more afraid of you than the other way round. Keep your head up high.
The nutters are all online and in the cities anyways.
 
  • Like
Reactions: adventurous cyclist

MattRyuu

Maximum Pace
Apr 23, 2019
257
219
53
43
I'm more dangerous that most of them. But other than one jumping gone wrong (against me) in crack cocaine Washington, DC where I grew up, never had to use that training. Carry what you want, but street smarts (awareness) are your greatest weapon.
 
  • Like
Reactions: adventurous cyclist

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,725
1,600
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
If you're by the roadside fixing a flat and some weirdo pulls over, 99 times out of 100 it will be a weirdo like yourself, i.e. another friendly cyclist asking if you're OK or if you need help :)

We're conditioned by the media to be afraid of things that are quite unlikely to happen (but that for various reasons push our emotional buttons) while ignoring or downplaying the things most likely to kill or harm us, e.g. bad diet / smoking, a lack of exercise or traffic accidents (in roughly that order [1]).

Take murders and rapes: Most people are worried about murders and rapes committed by strangers but most victims (around 70%) get killed or raped by someone they personally know, such as a family member, boyfriend or colleague.

There are roughly ten times more traffic deaths per year in Japan than homicide victims. Even in relatively healthy Japan, diet-related deaths are 35 times more numerous than traffic deaths.

I would say statistically you're far safer out in the countryside than in a city, primarily because traffic density is far higher in cities. You're far more likely to be hit by a driver trying to navigate or checking text messages in a big city where there are thousands of vehicles around you than on some small road on a mountain or between two villages where traffic tends to be light to non-existent.

____
[1] The annual death rates by homicides, traffic accidents and poor diets per 100,000 people in Japan are 0.28, 2.79 and 97, respectively.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: thomas

microcord

Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
969
368
83
Tokyo
My father had a copy of an early edition of Richard's Bicycle Book. As I remember, this had instructions for using one's (of course full-size) pump to persuade dogs to give up the pursuit. And this didn't just mean waving the pump.... I think Mr Ballantine's advice went down badly with dog lovers (perhaps his publisher tired of fending off irate phone calls); certainly my copy of a later edition (shown here) doesn't deal with this.
 

trad

Maximum Pace
Dec 4, 2006
396
30
48
Tokyo
Apart from a few aggressive close passes and one minor collision with less than educated drivers (often BMW, Priuses, and occasional K-trucks), I've not had a dangerous experience in 10 years of riding in Japan. In fact, people in the country-side will often go out of their way to help you when you need help. The couple of times that someone in the group got hurt in the mountains, random Ojii-chan's and Obaa-chan's turned up in their white K-trucks to offer help, tea/manju, and transport the injured to nearest hospital. To the OP... in case you are carrying a knife/blade for protection and haven't heard....the max legal blade length you can carry around now is 5.5cm - so many Swiss army pocket knives are NG. Would not want to have that become an different issue with the police...
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
952
643
123
43
@joewein
A man after my heart, you come prepared with data!

If you're by the roadside fixing a flat and some weirdo pulls over, 99 times out of 100 it will be a weirdo like yourself, i.e. another friendly cyclist asking if you're OK or if you need help :)
Yes, and some Japanese will always stop and ask if they can help. I haven't had a bike accident on Japanese roads in over a decade-and-a-half, but I have assisted other (motor)cyclists who washed out in a curve.

Take murders and rapes: Most people are worried about murders and rapes committed by strangers but most victims (around 70%) get killed or raped by someone they personally know, such as a family member, boyfriend or colleague.
Unfortunately, this is true and most of the women in my life don't seem to be aware.

There are roughly ten times more traffic deaths per year in Japan than homicide victims. Even in relatively healthy Japan, diet-related deaths are 35 times more numerous than traffic deaths.
The only nitpick I would add here is that we are not representative of the overall population. Even if we ride more safely per kilometer, we ride many more kilometers than the average person. So the number you should look at are expectation values rather than probabilities. Moreover, we tend to go faster, so the consequences of an accident are more significant.
 
Last edited:

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
952
643
123
43
Apart from a few aggressive close passes and one minor collision with less than educated drivers (often BMW, Priuses, and occasional K-trucks), I've not had a dangerous experience in 10 years of riding in Japan.
Apart from all the dangerous situation and that one accident, I didn't have any problems :p

Overall, in my experience most Japanese drive much more defensively than in other countries. But there are quite a few cases when drivers seriously underestimate the speed at which road bikes are going. Every single year I have a handful of incidents where I have had close calls. Last year I had one that was literally cms away from being seriously life threatening (probably the closest call I have ever had). You have the person who overtakes you with his puny, anemic K-car just to immediately make a left turn so as not to miss the entrance to his favorite 7-Eleven's parking lot (happened this year). Or cars that just want to squeeze by (happens all the time). Inside the city other cyclist are a surprising source of danger, many of them go in the wrong direction on the road, women on mamacharis cross an intersection even though it is red or read their husband's message that he'll come home late from work and that she should pick up some milk.

Since spending much more time on the trainer, I have significantly reduced my risk, and it feels great. I really wouldn't want to hammer out over-unders on a road where I have to pay attention to other people on the road and much more mundane things like curbs.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MattRyuu

baribari

Maximum Pace
May 28, 2010
949
471
83
Fukushima
Strictly speaking carrying any sort of weapon without a justifiable reason is illegal in Japan, but the police don't consider self-defense a justifiable reason. That said, carrying bear spray while cycling isn't going to get you arrested, as bears are a real danger.
 

trad

Maximum Pace
Dec 4, 2006
396
30
48
Tokyo
I do think the much fewer "agro" drivers, liability laws (larger vehicle bearing majority of liability), and slow overtake speeds make Japan one of the safer countries to ride. As for "weird crimes" the OP was asking about, I guess the only ones I experienced were a couple of intentional close passes and a bump (attempted assaults) by idiot drivers. Do agree that we surprise cars with our speed and there's always negligent drivers... helped me to ride with "Frogger" game mentality in traffic and turn on bright flashing front/rear lights even during the day.

I do miss riding in Japan, especially on the long TCC rides circa dozen years ago. I'm based in the US at the moment and find the riding here probably the most dangerous of the dozen or so countries I've lived in... Been hit from behind by a distracted driver doing 35-45mph while stopped at red light and flung 45 ft into oncoming traffic (pre Japan days); been hit by a 93 yr old great grandma at a 4 way stop sign that I stopped at - breaking my neck in two places, compressing 3 vertebrae, suffering partial paralysis, many surgeries (a few months into retirement); and drivers here seem to have become "much more agro" towards cyclists... Might be me and my luck, but I was even hit by a black bear last year in Aspen area while riding at dusk next to a river.... I'm able to ride road and mtb again, but 80% of my riding has moved indoors now (zwift)... Enjoy your days in Japan guys....
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
952
643
123
43
I'm based in the US at the moment and find the riding here probably the most dangerous of the dozen or so countries I've lived in...
I have lived in the US and my experiences jive with that. IMHO two contributing factors are the really lax driver's ed standards and the fact that most drivers don't even know what rights and duties cyclists have — we are just a nuisance to them. I have had online discussions with some of them, and they were flabbergasted by their traffic laws (which are, annoyingly, partly decided on the federal level, partly by state and partly by the county).
 

MattRyuu

Maximum Pace
Apr 23, 2019
257
219
53
43
Apart from all the dangerous situation and that one accident, I didn't have any problems :p

Overall, in my experience most Japanese drive much more defensively than in other countries. But there are quite a few cases when drivers seriously underestimate the speed at which road bikes are going. Every single year I have a handful of incidents where I have had close calls. Last year I had one that was literally cms away from being seriously life threatening (probably the closest call I have ever had). You have the person who overtakes you with his puny, anemic K-car just to immediately make a left turn so as not to miss the entrance to his favorite 7-Eleven's parking lot (happened this year). Or cars that just want to squeeze by (happens all the time). Inside the city other cyclist are a surprising source of danger, many of them go in the wrong direction on the road, women on mamacharis cross an intersection even though it is red or read their husband's message that he'll come home late from work and that she should pick up some milk.

Since spending much more time on the trainer, I have significantly reduced my risk, and it feels great. I really wouldn't want to hammer out over-unders on a road where I have to pay attention to other people on the road and much more mundane things like curbs.
Man, this reminds me of an incident last week where I was the motor vehicle driver. I'm driving the family to Kita-senju station on Saturday to pick up some groceries. We always go early because parking sucks. I just got my JP driver's license. I pull, for a single block, into the thoroughfare that is usually full of mama-charis and pedestrians but its 2 hours before lunch time, and this is a single block about 20 meters long just before I can get into an alley to go to the parking garage.. From my right side, as I'm passing a block, the equivalent of a JP blond comes barreling through without stopping, nearly ran over a pedestrian couple that was walking. I'm already making a left and have my left blinker on, but she is pissed as hell that she can't simply continue at same speed...on her mama-chair...without slowing down. So she tries to go left around me. Realizes there is no way to do that without hitting me and injuring herself. At this point I had stopped because I saw her in my rear-view mirror and left side mirror...and right side mirror. She huffs so loud we can hear it in the car. Fortunately my wife said the best thing ever...she looks in the left side mirror and then back at me and says "She should not be so stupid."

There are some really oblivious "cyclists" here too.
 

MattRyuu

Maximum Pace
Apr 23, 2019
257
219
53
43
Also as for weirdos, @luka and @thooms remember that Green Line ride we did, where the local suped-up Honda driver gunned his nitro engine on me?
 

MattRyuu

Maximum Pace
Apr 23, 2019
257
219
53
43
I have lived in the US and my experiences jive with that. IMHO two contributing factors are the really lax driver's ed standards and the fact that most drivers don't even know what rights and duties cyclists have — we are just a nuisance to them. I have had online discussions with some of them, and they were flabbergasted by their traffic laws (which are, annoyingly, partly decided on the federal level, partly by state and partly by the county).
Similar to my experience, but growing up and being based in DC, we got driver's whose last vehicle was like a camel, or donkey...so...yeah. Many more horror stories actually being in vehicles behind the world nations tour that is Wash, D.C. Tons of FOBs from who knows where and with who knows what sort of driving training. The worst were probably from neighboring states.
 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,725
1,600
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
The only nitpick I would add here is that we are not representative of the overall population. Even if we ride more safely per kilometer, we ride many more kilometers than the average person. So the number you should look at are expectation values rather than probabilities. Moreover, we tend to go faster, so the consequences of an accident are more significant.
As counter-intuitive it may sound, the couch is more likely to kill you than being on a bicycle. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer kill more people in developed countries than anything else. Cycling considerably lowers those risks. That more than compensates for the accident risks.

For example a 2017 study by Glasgow University with 264,450 participants followed over about five years, about half of them women and with a mean age of 52.6, found that people who commuted by bicycle had a 41% lower all cause mortality ("hazard ratio: 0.59").

People tend to overestimate the number of lives lost in bicycle accidents vs. the number of lives saved from leading a healthy, active lifestyle. Leading a sedentary lifestyle carries with it far greater risks than your relatively moderate chance of being taken out by a vehicle or crashing on a high speed descent (a risk you still want to minimize, of course).
 
  • Like
Reactions: PSB and kiwisimon