Tokyo Warns Cyclists About Illegal Electric Bicycles

Byron Kidd
Recently the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has issued warnings to the public against the use of electric-assisted bicycles which run under their own power rather than providing pedal assist, saying that they are illegal on public roads.

Road Legal Electric-Assist Bicycle
Under Japanese road laws an electric bicycle that can run under its own power, without the cyclist pedalling, is under the same category as a motorcycle with engine size of 50cc or less and such vehicles require number plates and for the rider to have a license. Therefore riding such a bicycle on public roads unlicensed and without number plates is illegal. Electric bicycles commonly sold in Japan provide "electric assist", extra power to the pedals while the rider is pedalling while models overseas typically have a throttle allowing the bicycle to move without the rider pedalling at all.

The Tokyo Bureau of Citizens and Cultural Affairs purchased 5 different types of the electric power-assisted bikes, ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 yen, for testing. They sourced the bicycles from both highly recommended online retailers, and retailers who had received a high number of consumer complaints. Of those tested one was equipped with a throttle in a clear violation of the road traffic act and three of the five continued running after the rider had stopped pedalling. More alarmingly was that under Japanese regulations power assisted bicycle motors are designed to stop running once the rider reaches 24 kilometres per hour, but four out of the five bicycles tested continued to accelerate to even higher speeds.

Personally I've noticed an increase of throttle controlled electric bicycles in the Higashi Shinjuku and Shin Okubo districts near my office. Such a sharp increase that I thought maybe the law had been changed to make such bicycles legal. I've seen these bicycle in use within full view of police officers none of whom have so much as even warned the cyclist. If officials don't act soon their use will become commonplace and the police will lose the power to act as they have in so many other areas of Japanese cycling regulation.

Bicycle buyers are advised to check safety inspection marks including the Traffic Safety mark from the Japan Traffic Management Technology Association, Bicycle Association Approved mark from the Bicycle Association of Japan and the Safe Goods mark of the Consumer Product Safety Association.

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  1. "If officials don't act soon their use will become commonplace and the police will lose the power to act as they have in so many other areas of Japanese cycling regulation."

    Don't the police always have the power to act, as long as they're enforcing current law? I realize it's harder once lots of people are using this type of cycle... but it's not impossible.

    Certainly agree that this should be stopped now before it becomes an epidemic.

    1. It's true the police always have the power to enforce existing laws, but the longer they leave it to clamp down on illegal practices the more widespread and accepted the practice becomes making enforcement at a later date much more difficult.

      Really the police need to do their job now while the problem is still at a manageable stage before as you say it becomes an epidemic. Unfortunately though I believe we won't see them act until there is a fatal accident, and even then their crackdown will last barely a week and the situation will return to normal.

  2. i like the picture associated "Road Legal Electric-Assist Bicycle" with a two children set-up bicycle also supposed illegal by the Japanese Law.
    The Bicycle Laws in Japan get more and more complicated, if those bicycles are considered has 50cc bikes will they also have to be forbidden to ride on the pavement ?
    Will it be allowed to ride two people on one bike with a one year bike licence ?

    Good luck to the Japanese Officers for this.

    1. Cycling with two children is NOT illegal under Japanese law providing the bicycle sports a Bicycle Association Approved sticker and it remains legal to ride these bicycles on the sidewalk where sidewalks are marked for dual use.

      It is however illegal to ride a bicycle with a throttle, one which accelerates without the rider pedaling, on any sidewalk (dual use or not) as these bicycles are in the same class as 50cc scooters.

      You can ride a bicycle with a throttle on the roads, but under the law the bicycle must be registered in the same way as a 50cc scooter, and the rider must hold a scooter license.

      Electric-assist bicycles in Japan typically provide the rider with extra power up to a speed of 24km/h only while the user is pedaling. These bicycles are legal to ride on designated sidewalks and the road without special registration or licensing requirements.

  3. Only started to research on electric bicycles in Japan and right away stumbled on this law, this quite sad actually. Way too strict, especially throttle mode doesn't make any sense. Why it is so bad to have throttle mode? Well, makes me jealous of those bicycles that can easily climb even steep hills. That's the biggest reason why i started looking at electric bicycles, but what is available in Japan is way too weak to be of any practical use.

    But oh well, as much as i like Japan, japanese government never made sense.

    1. Notice how many bicycles are on the road here and how out of control a lot of young people are on them? I think I understand the governmnet's concern about throttle bicycles given the current traffic and the lack of concern for road safety of many current Japanese cyclists.

  4. I am using a electric scooter in the streets of Brussels on the roads and on the specified bicycle lanes as the electric scooters are in the same category as electric wheelchairs as long they don't exceed 16 km/h.
    So, as I would like to bring my scooter with me to Tokyo, will it be tolerated on the bicycle lanes in Tokyo ?

  5. Hi

    I have a normal city bike, road bike.
    I just bought a ebike front wheel, has a battery too.

    It's not pedal assist, it has throttle.

    I checked many site on internet about Japanese law for e bikes and it looks like I have to get license plate. Is this true.

    At the moment, I'm not riding it because no license plate or no license to drive .

    Can you tell me what I should do.

    Thanks in advance


  6. Yes that is the law. Now for what I have done. I have been riding my e bike all over Tokyo for the last year. You are not going to get a motor capable of climbing the steep hills in Tokyo that is within the legal limit of 250 watts. Its just not going to happen. My wife owns a brand new Yamaha kiss and it struggles to climb the really steep hills and you have to pedal really hard. What I did was buy a mid drive 750 watt kit that is illegal. It came with a throttle and a pedal assist. The throttle is really useless on an e bike. The pedal assist is the way to go. So I removed the throttle witch is illegal use the pedal assist and programmed the driver to shut down the pedal assist at 25 kph. The pedal assist needs to shut down at 20 kph to be legal but no policeman can tell the difference between 20 and 25 kph. With this set up I can travel at 25 kph with out breaking a sweat to go any faster on a bicycle you start meeting strong wind resistance and it waste a lot of energy. I no you see the guys on the super expensive bikes doing 35 to 40 kph but its a lot of work to get there. Anyway with my bike set up like this I don't go fast enough to arouse any suspicion my bike doesn't have a throttle to make any policeman angry and I can ride up the steepest hills pedaling just like in fist gear on level ground. This has really been a sweet setup. I can go from Azabu-Juban to Shibuya in 10 to 15 minutes that's faster than the buss and faster than I can drive it in my car.

  7. precisely why someone can not follow the actual online dating ever again. So as to bust things quickly, it could be better for just a particular person not forgetting whatever can target the situation involving definitely not getti

  8. what happens if your bike does it all do you still need it licence even though it does pedal assist along with throttle and will it be accepted if you take the throttle off.

  9. how high of a wattage is allowed on a custom ebike if you get the motorcycle license for it

  10. According to a arielrider electric beach cruiser enthusiast, there are several advantages to owning one, including being environmentally friendly as well as being beneficial for your health.

  11. how about if you have a very powerful motor but you take the battery off and just use the regular pedals for city riding is that legal?

  12. But sometimes it takes too much energy to ride a bike, especially if you want to travel far away.Ancheer

  13. That is really nice to hear. thank you for the update and good luck. electric scooter singapore

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