January 07, 2011

Bicycle lanes. Don't bring them to Japan.

Dear bicycle infrastructure planners (if such people even exist in Japan), Please don't increase the number of bicycle lanes in Tokyo, please.  

Currently the laws concerning cyclists are poorly understood and even more poorly enforced, as are most cycling laws in Japan.  This gives cyclists the freedom to ride where they're comfortable, at a pace which they are comfortable.  

I'm comfortable cycling on the road, in traffic, riding at speed.  Others are more comfortable cycling at a more refined pace on the sidewalks.  That’s great, I appreciate the fact that as cyclists we're allowed to choose between the two.

But if it comes to pass that bicycle lanes abound in Japan I predict that the law will change to decree: "Thou shalt cycle in the bicycle lane where such a lane is provided. Thou shalt not ride upon the sidewalk, nor the road."

If the law does change as such we will end up with the road cyclists and the sidewalk cyclists all being forced to share a single bicycle lane and that’s going to be a recipe for disaster.

I don't know how much cycling you've done in Japan, but if you've ever been forced to ride on the sidewalk with salarymen, mothers, the elderly, and drunks, then you learn to appreciate the safety of a busy metropolitan road during peak hour.

It may not be a popular view but I, for one, am happy with the situation as it is.  So instead of bicycle lanes, lets pump some of that money into bicycle parking, and bicycle safety campaigns for both cyclists and motorists instead.

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