We now have data on the Japanese government’s crackdown on reckless cyclists.
The Japan Times reports that 7,924 penalties have been issued by police since the revised Road Traffic Law took effect on June 1, 2015. The law’s intent was to reduce the number of fatal accidents caused by reckless cyclists. While the number of cyclist-caused accidents had been steadily decreasing in recent years, the ratio of fatal accidents has surged, so the central government took action last year. There are 13 traffic violations covered by the law, including neglect to heed traffic signals, riding onto pedestrian-only areas, passing under a railway crossing gate, not observing stop signs and riding with malfunctioning brakes. Cyclists younger than 14 are exempt from ticketing.
So far, it looks like Osaka area cyclists are catching the brunt of police intervention, as 2,673 penalties have been reported there – a whopping 40% of which were for ignoring red lights. Tokyo, Hyogo, Kanagawa and Kyoto prefectures followed with sizable heaps of violations, while Akita, Toyama, Gifu, Tokushima and Nagasaki barely made a dent with one reported case each. Fukui was the only prefecture with zero reported penalties, so if you’re looking for a constituency of considerate riders, look no further.
As of the end of December, only seven multiple offenders in Osaka and Tokyo were ordered to undergo a safety course before rolling back to the streets.
All said, these numbers are pretty tame considering there were 71.5 million bicycles on the road as of 2013, and anyone who’s ever walked on a Japanese street for five minutes can tell you that there’s no shortage of reckless behavior by cellphone-ogling, umbrella-holding and/or all-around distracted cyclists.
–Text and image by Luca Eandi