- 14 . 06 . 04
Cyclists are annoying, and in Japan they are legally obliged to use the pavement, not the road.
Bikes, Confrontation, Japanese Culture
Now that I don’t have a bike again, it’s come back to me just how annoying cyclists are here. It’s illegal to ride on the road here, so all the bikes are ridden on the pavement. This would be fine, except that the cyclists ride as fast as they can manage and expect pedestrians to move out of the way. All very well, but what about when the cyclist is approaching from behind? This is where you get to play the pedestrian lottery. The fun begins when a bell starts ringing madly and you’ve generally got about 2 seconds to choose left or right and then hope that the cyclist chooses the other way. The pavements on the main road are quite wide, but in other places they’re non-existent.
You regularly see bike crashes or near misses. If two bikes are being ridden towards each other, the natural thing to do is to pick a side to pass on and then stick to it. Sometimes you both choose the same way, and one person will change, but generally it all gets sorted out before you actually meet. Not in Japan. If two bikes are heading towards each other (especially if the riders are older), the most common occurrence is for them to stop wheel to wheel.
This highlights two common characteristics in Japan. Firstly, that people don’t generally seem to think about others who aren’t important to them, and aren’t prepared to go out of their way to help them. Thus, both bikes are ridden as if the other is expected to move. When it turns out that neither move and there is a near collision, there happens a profuse outbust of apologies, blaming themselves and not the other. This again is a natural Japanese characteristic. I need my bike fixed as soon as possible, if only to survive on the pavements!