Know The Cycling Rules of the Road!


Rules and regulations for bicycles are different from country to country. In Japan, the variety of rules pertaining to bicycles are established according to the Road Traffic Law (Dōro Kōtsū Hō/道路交通法). It’s important to remember that breaking the law can result in civil or criminal issues, and you can be ordered to pay a fine or even be arrested. Please note that you are considered to be a pedestrian when you walk while pushing your bicycle.  

Where to Ride Your Bike 
On roads where there is a separate footpath for pedestrians and road for cars, bikes must use the road (alternatively, cyclists must ride their bikes in a designated bike lane if there is one). You must pass on the left side when biking along the road, especially on roads with no vehicle lanes (cyclists are allowed to use the pedestrian lane except for when doing so would considerably impede pedestrian traffic).  

The following are examples of when you can ride your bike on the sidewalk:
○ When there are visible road signs which indicate that bikes can use the sidewalk. 
○ If you are elderly (over 70 years old) or very young (under 13 years old).
○ If it is deemed unavoidable to ride the sidewalk in order to ensure bicycle safety. However, cyclists are obligated to give vulnerable road users (tsūkō jakusha /通行弱者) the right of way in this case. 

Using a Bicycle Bell
Bicycles are often equipped with devices that make noise when prompted by the cyclist, similar to how vehicles have horns. This kind of device is often referred to as a ‘bicycle bell’, and there are quite a number of different types and systems. This includes everything from bells and horns, analog and even digitally-controlled devices. However, despite this range of bicycle bells, their use is regulated by law, and cyclists found to be in violation can be subjected to fines and other punishments. Cyclists must ring their bells when they are passing through intersections where there’s no visibility on either the left or right, turns with no visibility, and/or when there is a road sign indicating that they must do so. However, with the exception of the previously-listed examples, cyclists must not ring their bells/alarms unless it is absolutely unavoidable to prevent danger.                     

Cycling at Night
You are required to use a headlight when cycling at night, regardless of whether the roads are illuminated by external lighting or not. There are a variety of bicycle lights available to cyclists. In general, there are three types: hub dynamo (in which electricity is provided by a generator that is installed on the center axle of the front wheel), block dynamo (in which the generator provides electricity by rubbing against the tires), as well as battery operated and rechargeable types. You cannot operate a bicycle that does not have reflective equipment (excluding those with tail lights) at night. Please walk your bike if your headlight is broken or malfunctioning. If you do not follow these regulations, you are not only putting yourself and others in danger, you may also run the risk of incurring a penalty or fine.          

When turning left, you must be as close to the left side of the road as possible before you make the turn, and you must slow down as much as possible when cycling along the left side of the road. When making a right turn, you must first approach the left side of the road and then slowly ride down along the side edge of the intersection before finally making a two-step right turn at the intersection. When crossing at an intersection that has a bicycle crossing zone, use the bicycle crossing. You must ride your bike in the safest possible manner and at the safest speed depending on the situation while paying attention to the surrounding pedestrians and cars. If there are pedestrians at an intersection, you must get off your bike and walk across the intersection.