S’pore can learn a lot about cycling etiquette from Japan

In Japan, it is pedestrians over cyclists.

By Kayla Wong | February 7, 2018

Due to a combination of laws and local customs, the Japanese are exceptionally considerate in public.

For example, chances are you’d hardly hear any cyclist ringing the bell asking for others to make way in Japan.

Pedestrians are prioritised over cyclists in Japan

In Japan, while cyclists can use the pavements, the law favours the pedestrian.

The law states that cyclists should stick to the side nearest to the road.

On narrow pavements where space is limited, the cyclist should always stop and give way to the pedestrian if the latter’s path is obstructed.

If found guilty of obstruction, the cyclist can be fined up to ¥20,000 (S$237).

It is also extremely rude to ring your bicycle bell at the pedestrian, who’d most likely find the act annoying.

On sidewalks, pedestrians are given priority, unless it’s a designated bike lane.

Image via Tokyo By Bike

Japan a “fine” country?

If you’re living in Japan, or planning a bicycle tour there, you might want to take note of the following things that might get you into trouble while cycling:

Holding an umbrella

Potential fine up to ¥50,000 (S$594)

Image via Tokyo By Bike

You’ll have to make do with a raincoat if it rains, or get one of these nifty umbrella holders for your bike.

Listening to music through your headphones

Potential fine up to ¥50,000 (S$594)

Image via Jidensha token no kyoukashou

Riding tandem on a single-seater bike (Passengers below the age of 16 are excluded)

Potential fine up to ¥20,000 (S$237)

Images via here and here

Riding side-by-side

Potential fine up to ¥20,000 (S$237)

Screenshot via Econte

The only exception to this rule are for areas marked by signs that specifically allow for side-by-side riding.

Not having your headlights on at night

Potential fine up to ¥50,000 (S$594)

Image via Pedalista

Using your phone in any way

Potential fine up to ¥50,000 (S$594)

Image via jin115

A teen was charged in 2011 for the first case of its kind in Japan. She was looking at images on her phone while cycling.

Also, your bike has to be licensed before you can ride it.

Image via Tokyo By Bike

While there’s no penalty for not registering a bike, if you’re ever stopped by the police for a bicycle registration check, you could be accused of having stolen the bike even if you’re the rightful owner.

Rules are obscure even to the Japanese

However, not every Japanese is aware of every single rule, resulting in some people breaking them unknowingly.

While the laws wouldn’t be able to send cyclists to jail if they make one or two mistakes, if you’re caught doing any of the illegal actions twice or more in a three-year period, you’d be forced to take a class on bicycle safety.

The class costs ¥5,700 (S$67). But if you choose to skip out of it, you’d have to pay ¥50,000 (S$594)

Cyclists here are subject to same traffic rules as other road users

As with the cyclists in Japan, cyclists here in Singapore have to obey the same rules as drivers and motorcyclists.

Not many might know this, but there are actually rules in our Road Traffic Act that apply specifically to cyclists, such as signalling one’s intentions and not riding side-by-side.

And yes, the general code of conduct here is that people on machines must always give way to pedestrians.

With the number of cyclists set to grow even more than it has already, it’ll be helpful to remember these bike rules and etiquette, even if not all abide by them.

Top image via neekoh.fi

About Kayla Wong

Kayla's dog runs her life.

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