02 December 2009

Good manners count...



The Nikkei Weekly - November 30, 2009


Speeding cyclists pose threat

Health, green issues get people on bikes; poor habits result in pedestrian collisions

An increase in accidents involving pedestrians is forcing the city to place limitations on a popular cycling course in Tokyo. Some of the plans under consideration include building a platform that separates the pedestrians from the cyclists and enforcing speed limits.


Some municipalities have changed street names to emphasize the pedestrians' right of way. A strong awareness of health and the environment is turning more and more people into cyclists, but these cyclists need to find a safe way to coexist with pedestrians.

"Watch out for pedestrians" and "Reduce speed" are among signs that dot Fuchu Tamagawa Kaze no Michi, a 9.4km road alongside the Tama River in western Tokyo.

Cars and motorcycles are not allowed, but the road has been the site of collisions involving pedestrians for about 10 years. According to Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's Fuchu Police Station 2007 and 2008 saw 23 accidents - two serious ones in 2008- involving pedestrians. The main cause was the excess speed of cyclists, who were unable to get out of the way in time and collided with pedestrians.

Fuchu spent about 12 million yen ($134,830) through last year building speed bumps into roads with frequent accidents. This fiscal year, the city plans to install signs along the route that appear like the road is narrowing to encourage slower speeds. A 53-year-old man who commutes by bicycle said, "The only way to tackle this is for cyclists to reduce their speeds."

Machida city recently renamed the 14.5km stretch used by both cyclists and pedestrian known as the Sakaigawa cycling road. Complaints from pedestrians about cyclists - from rudeness to accidents - have increased in recent years. The city said the name erroneously led cyclists to believe the road was for them only. The name, Sakaigawa Yukkuri Road, reflects the fact that pedestrians have the right of way, city officials said.

Bicycle accidents involving pedestrians are on the rise even in the city. According to the National Police Agency, there were 2,942 bicycle accidents in 2008, a 4.5-fold increase from a decade earlier. Part of the increase stems from the fact that a growing number of cyclists are riding faster, sports-type models.

According to a nationwide survey of 100 bicycle shops conducted by the Tokyo-based Japan Bicycle Promotion Institute, sports-bicycle sales per store jumped 45% in fiscal 2008. In the last three years, sales of other types of bicycles have stagnated, while sports-type bicycles are rising 30-45% compared with previous years.

Many people are buying sports-type bicycles for the first time to combat the onset of metabolic syndrome and save on gas costs, observers said. Most of the sports-type bicycles are racing bikes, which can easily hit speeds of 30-40kph. If the pedestrian walking ahead makes a sudden turn, cyclists have a hard time avoiding a collision. The bikes are quiet and pedestrians may have trouble noticing them.

Arakawa emergency riverside road, also known as Arakawa cycling road, has adopted speed limits. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, which manages the road, has called for a speed limit below 20kph - the speed at which a cyclist can easily stop. Signs warning speeders have been placed at 91 locations on the road.

Good manners count

Residents of local municipalities are pushing for separate roads for pedestrians and cyclists, but officials say roads do not have enough shoulder space nor can they be widened to create separate paths for both. The reality is urbanites on foot will just have to count on the good manners of cyclists for peaceful coexistence.

Masahiro Mashimo, former racer and leader of a hobby cycling team, acknowledged that it would be ideal if pedestrians could be separated from cyclists, but said in tight spaces, "speeding is a bad idea."

5 comments:

David L. said...

Even the head of the recently defeated Liberal Democratic Party, S. Tanigaki, crashed his bike on the path along the Tamagawa last month. He is one of those guys we regularly pass on our way back in to town.

I guess we will be taking the road instead of the path from now on, at least through the areas closer to town than Sekidobashi. ... or others will outfit their road bikes with bells, as I have, to reduce the "sudden turn" risk.

For example, see the linked report on Tanigaki's bruises (Nov 24) -- seems not to have made the English language press, but widely reported in Japanese:
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/politics/news/20091124-OYT1T00451.htm

Manfred von Holstein said...

I haven't been subscribing to the Nikkei Weekly for a long time and can't remember whether they published letters from readers. Does anyone know? I would love to write in with my view.

The article is another article that completely misses the point but making no attempt to see the situation through the eyes of the cyclists. They are simply portrayed as the bad people, the people without manners. We all know that if anything the truth is the opposite: all the fast cyclists are well aware of the dangers and are particularly careful, while most pedestrians and mamachari riders seem to think they can live in their own world and ignore the fact that there are other traffic participants around. Speed limits for cyclists defeat the purpose of cycling to stay fit - and besides do not eliminate the dangers altogether.

TOM said...

Ludwig, indeed wouldn't it be nice if authorative newspapers like the Nikkei describe the situation through the eyes of us serious cyclists! Unfortunately we are in the minority and those paths are not bicycle-dedicated but open to pedestrians as well. Otherwise I liked what this Masahiro Mashimo said. As much as possible I avoid the Tamasai and cycle on the road below.

Manfred von Holstein said...

I would prefer an autobahn for us road racing cyclists and a separate path for all careless people, be they on bikes or on foot.

But I know this will not become reality any time soon. What I would like to see is that newspapers complain about irresponsible mamachari riders, joggers, dog-walkers and others going for a walk, instead of blaming cyclists for crashes that they do not cause. And instead of speed limits, there should be warning signs towards these people.

Froggy said...

Yesterday I met Beppu san, the Skill shimano team rider who finished 47th in the last tour de France. We discussed the future of cycling in Japan & his dream to develop this sport in Japan. He told me he was afraid of the growing number of pseudo cyclists who do not know how to ride safely. He said he is willing to promote safe cycling in Japan. I felt a bit bad when I introduced Nagai san & the 2nd official Expresso Positivo team... thinking about our not respecting traffic light & accident rate... On the other hand he is living in France without a proper visa (which might be even more dangerous). Any way we had a 2 hours nice chat & I told him I would help him get a proper visa in exchange for a ride together with Positivo team...

Perhaps we could collaborate with Beppu san to teach pedestrians & sunday cyclists (Sunday driver in French means dangerous driver equivalent to Paper driver)