May 19, 2012

Tokyo police to remove over 10,000 bicycle crossings

The Metropolitan Police Department has decided to remove over 10,000 bicycle crossings from Tokyo intersections by 2014 to encourage cyclists to use streets.

In Tokyo there are around 15,000 bicycle crossings separating pedestrians from cyclists. Police have judged that removal of the crossings is necessary to discourage cyclists from riding on sidewalks.

Cyclists are required to use crossing lanes when they are present. Installation of the lanes began in 1978 with an amendment to the Road Traffic Law. Partly because at the time, bicycle traffic on sidewalks was permitted, many bicycle crossing lanes extend from one sidewalk to another.

Cyclists using roads now have to veer left into the crossing lanes, then veer right when they move from the crossing lane back onto the road, but it has been pointed out that this increases the chances of cars turning left at intersections to run into bicycles. If the crossing lanes were removed, bicycles could continue straight on the road when crossing.

Crossings will be retained on sidewalks designated to allow bicycle traffic. Police will later make a final decision on which crossings to remove.

"We want to quickly start removal so that bicycles can travel roads safely," a Metropolitan Police Department representative said.

On May 17, the department announced that 5,685 accidents involving bicycles occurred in Tokyo from January to April, 12 percent fewer than during the same period last year. There were 20 percent fewer accidents on sidewalks and 23 percent fewer at intersections, but accidents on the road increased by 7 percent. As to whether the changes were due to the department's announcement that cyclists must generally ride on the street, a traffic affairs department official said, "More analysis is needed."

There were 897 cases in which cyclists were stopped by police during the period for ignoring traffic signals or failing to maintain their bicycles -- about two times the 450 cases recorded during the same period last year.



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