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I have booked a hotel in Tokyo near JR Ueno Train Station and it offers bike rental. I know that around the station there are various attractions like Ueno Park and temples of Asakusa. I thought I might want to rent a bike and visit all the neighbouring sites in one day.

I was wondering whether cycling in Tokyo, and especially in Taito area, safe? Are there cycle paths and in general is Tokyo a 'bicycle-friendly' city? Are there any rules or advice a cyclist should remember while riding and parking a bike on the street? (myself I cycle regularly in Edinburgh, UK)

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they do their cycling on sidewalks so it should be pretty safe but hard to move fast – froderik May 4 '13 at 16:09
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Cycling is generally very safe, particularly in Taito-ku. There aren't any bike lanes really but you're free to cycle on the pavement, as long as you dismount when it's too crowded. Furthermore drivers are used to cyclists, just keep tight to the left on bigger roads. Helmets are seldom worn, even by mothers with a kid on the front, one on the back and one strapped to their chest.

Parking is a bit different. If you lock your bike up (not that it's really necessary, generally it's very unlikely your bike will get stolen) just anywhere, you'll be either asked to move along or get a warning ticket stuck to it. Leave it too long and the council will lift it. Even designated parking areas (usually outside stations) often require a residency tag / pass from the council. As such I usually park outside convenience stores - allowed, and no chance of it getting moved.

Police do not look kindly on headphone or mobile phone usage whilst cycling either - you'll likely be stopped (though they're very polite and will do their best to explain in English).

Other than that, Tokyo is great to bike around! Perfect way to take in the sights, particularly within the Yamanote loop.

(Fellow Edinburger in Tokyo :))

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+1 and interesting point on head/mobile -phone use. – Saaru Lindestøkke May 4 '13 at 21:12

Dedicated bicycle paths are rare to nonexistant; people ride their bikes on the (usually narrow) sidewalks. Interestingly, there are explicit bicycle lanes marked on crossings, but only there.

However, I would still consider it safe since everyone (drivers, pedestrians and cyclists) is very careful, polite and rule-abiding. If you behave similarly, there should be no problems.

You can take a look on Google's Street View around the area - useful in any case, and you'll see that there are many people riding bicycles.

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Cycling in Tokyo is a popular means of getting around for locals, so as a visitor you should try to experience the city by bicycle. Touring a city by bike gives you a totally different perspective as you become part of the city rather than a regular observer.

As stated by others it is acceptable to cycle on both roads and sidewalks, so you're free to cycle where you feel comfortable. Exercise some caution among pedestrians on the sidewalk as in accidents between pedestrians and bicycles the cyclist is always at fault.

More than safety, navigation is a big issue when cycling in Tokyo, it's a maze of narrow streets, none of which travel straight for long. Invest in a good map, or bring your smartphone along to remove some of the frustration of getting around.

Visit Tokyo By Bike for more information and news about cycling in Tokyo, and Japan.

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I live in Tokyo (seven years now) and just started commuting to work by bicycle.

Mostly safe. But some drivers (cars, motorbikes, vans, large vehicles, construction vehicles, buses - can be anyone) think its perfectly fine to whiz right past you with cms of gap. Some drivers also think its OK to pull-out in front of you (even though you made eye contact) or overtake and turn left or pull out in front of you turning right whilst looking left causing near crashes but usually just heavy braking on your part. Other drivers will honk at you if you are turning right e.g. in the middle of the lane rather than against the curb on the left.

Residential roads are the most dangerous.

Many pedestrians are also unfriendly generally, will not move to give you space (those group of three hogging the entire width of the pavement for instance) or will walk into you because they are staring down into their mobile phones. Also, the few pedestrians who jay-walk although may wait for vehicles to pass before crossing, will pass in front of you even if your going full-pelt and they performed their green-cross-code and saw you coming.

Cycling very early in the morning is the safest and most fun because there are far less traffic and pedestrians on the roads.

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As a someone who cycles in Tokyo nearly every day, I will add my five cents too.

A single general rule for cyclists in Tokyo is to remember that bicycle is a vehicle, not a pedestrian on wheels. Tokyo is not particularly bicycle-friendly, because of the lacking bicycle infrastructure, but otherwise cycling in Tokyo is fun.

Which means never cycle on sidewalks. It is not only dangerous but also illegal. To give more details - it is illegal if the sidewalk is narrower than three meters if I remember correctly but it would not stop policemen from approaching you if it is little wider.

Second, most cyclists in Tokyo are guilty of paying very little attention to rules so looking at others and doing the same is very bad idea. Cycle only on the left side, stop at red lights, do not cross large road crossings diagonally, do it by same rules as light motorbikes do. And remember that other cyclists often ignore lights and sometimes ride on the right - so have to watch out for them.

Car drivers are usually considerate and other pedestrians should not bother you if you don't ride on the pavement.

Parking is a problem. In most of Tokyo central part parking somewhere on the side of the road is illegal, but you will notice that many cyclists park there. In fact, there's not much choice. Dedicated bicycle parkings are in short supply and unless you leave your bike parked on the wrong place for a very long time it is no problem.

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