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Were You Aware?  There Are Now New Traffic Rules for Bicycles…

Raghuram is a graduate student at a university in Tokyo, to which he commutes by bicycle. At the bicycle parking area on campus, he runs into Misaki, a friend who also commutes by bike.

Were You Aware?  There Are Now New Traffic Rules for Bicycles…

Misaki

Good morning Raghuram. You seem to be a bit out of sorts, what's wrong?

Raghuram

Hi Misaki. Just a moment ago when I was riding my bike around a corner, I nearly hit another cyclist. I luckily avoided them, but the experience was rather scary.

Misaki

So you are talking about an intersection collision? I have heard that more than half of all accidents involving bicycles occur at intersections. With this in mind, in December of last year new traffic rules for bicycles were introduced to try and prevent such accidents.

Raghuram

Really, I had no idea! What's been changed?

Misaki

Are you aware of "roadside strips"? For roads that do not have established pedestrian sidewalks, "roadside strips" are a space at the side of the road set aside for pedestrians.

Raghuram

I see. Now that you mention it, you are talking about the space at the side of roads that is separated from where vehicles drive by a solid white line, aren't you?

Misaki

That's correct; such spaces are called "roadside strips." Until recently, it was possible for bicycles to use such roadside strips on either the left or right side of roads. However, the rules have now been amended so that when on a bicycle, you have to use the roadside strip on the left side of the road in accordance with your direction of travel.

Raghuram

I see. If cyclists are allowed to use either the left or right side roadside strips, there is a higher possibility of either head-on collisions between bicycles or intersection collisions. Is that the logic behind these changes?

Misaki

Exactly. However, it isn't just an issue of accidents occurring between bicycles. Rather, there is also the great danger of accidents with vehicles and pedestrians if cyclists ride in a roadside strip against the flow of traffic. Thus, when riding a bicycle, you are now only permitted to use the roadside strip on the left side of the road in accordance with your direction of travel. Furthermore, breaching this new rule can result in up to three months imprisonment or a fine of ¥50,000 or less.

Misaki conveys to Raghuram the importance of considering bicycles as also "a form of vehicle."

Raghuram

Commenting on the idea of bicycles being "a form of vehicle," what you mean is in that they are ridden on roads shared with vehicles; bicycles must be ridden in an identical fashion to how the other vehicles are driven?

Misaki

Yes, on roads that have distinct sidewalks and road surfaces, the basic rule is that bicycles will be ridden on the left side of the road in accordance with the direction of traffic.

Raghuram

Thinking about it, up until now perhaps I have ridden my bike on sidewalks.

Misaki

There are some exceptions to the basic rule I just explained. For example, if there are signs that indicate you can ride a bicycle on sidewalks, you are free to do so. However, even in such instances right-of-way is given to pedestrians. When you ride on sidewalks, make sure to ride slowly to the side of the sidewalk in order not to inconvenience any pedestrian traffic. I should also point out that pedestrian traffic has right-of-way when using roadside strips as well.

Raghuram

I understand.

Misaki

And by the way, only the roadside strips separated from the road surface by a single white line are those in which bicycles may be ridden. Roadside strips that are separated from the road surface by a double white line are for the dedicated use of pedestrians. As such, you cannot ride a bicycle in them.

Raghuram

I see. I must say that you are rather knowledgeable about traffic rules!

Misaki

Well as a hobby I ride a cross bike. Recently, one of my cycling friends had the misfortune of being badly injured in an intersection collision. That occurrence made me want to brush up on the traffic rules with respect to bicycles.

Raghuram

Really? I will also make an effort to thoroughly learn the traffic rules and take care to ride safely when cycling.

Misaki

Yes, while obviously we don't want to become victims of traffic accidents, we also don't want to become people who cause them. Let's all obey the rules and enjoy riding our bicycles safely.

●For more information (in Japanese) please refer to Koho Keishicho No. 62 (the Metropolitan Police Department Public Relations Magazine No. 62) (November 10th, 2013)
http://www.keishicho.metro.tokyo.jp/kouhoushi/no62/oshirase_koho62.htm