Sidewalk Cycling in Japan

Byron Kidd
I have a love hate relationship with sidewalk cycling in Japan. On one hand I hate the fact that cycling infrastructure is so poor that cyclists have to resort to cycling on pedestrian walkways. But given that, I love the fact that everyone is free to choose to cycle where they feel comfortable, yet hate it that some cyclists endanger pedestrians when cycling on the sidewalks.

Love or hate sidewalk cycling in Japan, you have to understand that given the lack of cycling lanes it is the acceptance of sidewalk cycling which has allowed cyclists numbers to remain so high in Japan and that until infrastructure is improved sidewalk cyclists will not go away.

I recently wrote a more detailed piece on sidewalk cycling in Japan for Metropolis Magazine here in Tokyo entitled "Sidewalk Circus: The bustling walkways of Tokyo are no places for cyclists - or are they?" and encourage you to take the time to read it online.

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  1. Commenting from Toronto, people go absolutely ballistic talking about cyclists using the sidewalks. It is technically illegal for any bike with larger than 24" wheels to be ridden on the sidewalk. Having been to Japan, I've seen that cyclists and pedestrians can co-exist on sidewalks, providing cyclists are respectful towards. I agree that we should all be working for better cycling infrastructure, and dedicated bike lanes. However, if my choices are riding on a busy boulevard with cars speeding by at 80km/h+ or taking the sidewalk with little or no pedestrians on it, it's quite obvious which is the logical option. I wish Japan could be used as a model to demonstrate that cyclists and pedestrians can both use the sidewalks safely, provided cyclists do simple things like slow down to pass people, and dismount when there are too many people, or little kids walking. Sadly a few bad apples ruins it for the majority of cyclists. Perhaps we should also focus on admonishing those jerks?

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