Tokyo cyclists (may) face requirement to attach number plates to bikes

Byron Kidd

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is considering requiring cyclists to attach to their bikes a large plate indicating their registration numbers.

My bicycle registration sticker.
The plan is part of the metropolitan government's efforts to prevent cyclists from illegally parking and abandoning their bicycles on streets and to decrease the number of cases in which they ride their bicycles in a dangerous manner. It is also aimed at reducing the costs of removing illegally parked and abandoned bicycles and temporarily storing them, which are footed by municipalities in Tokyo.

The metropolitan government is poised to set up a study panel on the issue to discuss enacting an ordinance.

In fiscal 2009, about 740,000 bicycles, or nearly 10 percent of approximately 9 million bicycles owned by Tokyo residents, were removed after being parked illegally or abandoned on streets. Some 310,000 of them were discarded after their owners failed to retrieve them within the six-month period set by municipalities.

Local bodies in Tokyo spent a total of 13.5 billion yen on removing illegally parked bicycles and storing them. The ongoing deflation, which has pushed down the prices of bicycles, has encouraged cyclists to easily abandon their bikes.

Difficulties in identifying the owners of abandoned bicycles are attributable largely to a lack of clear provision on what to do when the ownership of bicycles is transferred or when their owners move homes.

The registration, aimed at preventing bicycle theft, became legally compulsory in 1994. A person who buys a bicycle receives a seal bearing the vehicle's registration number after paying a 1,500-yen registration fee. Police departments store information on bicycle owners and use it in case of theft.

Even though there is no punitive clause for those who fail to register their bicycles, about 90 percent of bicycles are registered, according to an industry source. However, it becomes difficult for police to keep track of bicycle owners if they move their residences or hand over their bikes to other people.

Therefore, the metropolitan government's study group will consider legally requiring cyclists to report the changes of their registration in such cases, just like the license plates of cars.

The move is also in response to a growing number of accidents involving bicycles and pedestrians. The ratio of traffic accidents involving bicycles in Tokyo, which had stood at 30 percent in 2001, rose to 36 percent in 2010.

Pointing out that traffic accidents involving bicycles and buses in the January-October period of 2011 rose 40 percent from the corresponding period of the previous year, the Tokyo Bus Association has urged the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to mandate cyclists to attach registration plates to their bikes and enact an ordinance on the safety of bicycles.

"Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, the number of those who use bicycles to commute to their workplaces or schools has increased. If bicycles are obligated to travel on streets instead of sidewalks under the government's policy, the number of accidents will further increase," an association official said. "To prevent reckless riding, cyclists should be required to attach registration numbers."

However, cyclists and bicycle manufacturers may voice opposition to the move on the grounds that it would increase costs and that many consider such plates ugly. Considering such a possibility, the metropolitan government's study group will compile a report on such a measure by the end of this year.

"First of all, we'll take steps to ensure all bicycles will be registered. Then we'll consider ways to require bicycle owners to display their vehicles' registration numbers so that they can be seen clearly," says a metropolitan government official.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun

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  1. Sigh... Japanese beurocratic 'problem solving': all form, no funtion - poor results. If there is an accident, the people present are relevant, so what does the bicycle registration have to do with it? As for illegally parked bikes? Tag them and wait for a predetermined period up to 24hrs, then take them. If unclaimed in a week, sell them off. But that would be too simple. Japanese Razor: unaddressed problems don't exist; addressed problems are unsolvable.

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