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Questions from a new cyclist in town


Jun 4, 2009
Hey, everyone!

Although I moved here six months ago, I only just recently got a bike, and I am super excited about finally getting back on the road! I have a few things I'd like to find out before I get back on the bike, though. If anyone can tell me some of the following things, I would be very grateful.

1. What sort of lock is recommended/necessary? The one bike shop I have visited so far (Y's Road in Akasaka) didn't seem to even carry U-locks, just cables. I know that Japan is much safer than North America, but is a cable lock sufficient (for a "halfway decent" bike)? How much is bike theft a problem here? What do you recommend?

2. Can anyone recommend a good bike shop, preferably with some staff who speak at least some English? I'm afraid my Japanese is still at the embyonic stage. Is there a good place to get inexpensive helmets (and lights, etc)? (I live in Meguro and work near Shibuya.)

3. Is there anywhere that I can find out about the rules of the road, again in English if possible? I have seen a lot of people ride on the sidewalks; is that required? preferred? forbidden?

4. Finally, what about parking? I've seen "bike parking lots" near stations; I've also seen people just leave their bikes in a mass in varioius places, also usually near stations. Is the latter legal? Safe? I get the impression you can't just lock up to any old street sign like you can in North America.

I would very much appreciate any answers or advice that people can give me. Thanks very much, and I'm sure I'll see some of you on the road!
1. I don't know anyone who uses a U-lock. I've used cable locks for years with no problems, except once when I forgot and rode off with it still attached. (The lock disintegrated!)

2. If you want a real mechanical/fitting expert, Aoyama-san at HiRoad (http://hiroad.biz/) is near you in Meguro. For inexpensive parts and accessories, but no English that I've noticed, Nalsima Frend in Sendagaya is a great choice (http://www.nalsimafrend.jp/shop/index.html)

3. http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/road.htm You can ride on the sidewalk where there are signs permitting it. But everyone rides wherever the hell they want - sidewalks, going the wrong way down the carriageway etc. Even the police. You mustn't ride while drunk. You mustn't ride with more than one child on your bike unless your bike is specifically designed for it. To successfully blend in you must ride with an umbrella in one hand, a telephone in the other hand, and a cigarette in the other hand.

4. All those bikes clustered near stations and not in proper (usually fee-paying) cycle parking lots are there illegally and subject to regular confiscation by local authorities. Near most stations there will be a map with a red-colored area showing the immediate vicinity where such parking is not allowed (e.g. http://blogimg.goo.ne.jp/user_image/79/aa/d755ac90d6fd3b15b99fbd27333b4d95.jpg). Locking your bike to a sign or other fixed object will not necessarily stop the confiscators; it may slow them down, or you may lose your lock. Confiscated bikes are taken to a holding facility; if you don't go there soon and pay their ransom, your bike will be sold or scrapped.

Good luck out there. Keep the rubber side down!!


--Mike Sims-Williams
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