23

I have booked a hotel in Tokyo near the 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? (I cycle regularly in Edinburgh, UK)

  • 5
    they do their cycling on sidewalks so it should be pretty safe but hard to move fast – froderik May 4 '13 at 16:09
  • Be very careful anywhere near taxis. – Antzi Nov 28 '16 at 2:50
25

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 :))

9

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.

9

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 http://www.tokyobybike.com for more information and news about cycling in Tokyo, and Japan.

  • Your profile contains a link to the site. You should include your affiliation and what the site actually is. This could otherwise be considered spammy. – Jan Sep 23 '16 at 17:34
5

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.

4

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 a 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 a little wider.

Secondly, most cyclists in Tokyo are guilty of paying very little attention to rules so looking at others and doing the same is a very bad idea. Cycle only on the left side, stop at red lights, do not cross large road crossings diagonally, do it by the 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.

1

I feel sorry to say that, but the other answers are simply not true, or outdated.

You cannot ride on a sidewalk, unless you meet one of the following criteria:

  • The lane is 3 meters or wider

  • Age less than 13, or 70 or older

  • There is a road sign that signifies you can ride on the lane

  • Inevitable cases in favor of safety (e.g. so many parked cars on the road preventing you from riding, etc...)

Otherwise, it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk and you might be put in jail at the worse case possible.

The detailed explanation is here, written in Japanese.

Other violated actions include the ignorance of a traffic light, riding while drunk, using a smartphone, earhub, and/or umbrella while riding, riding on the right side, etc...

Also note that pedestrians should always have a priority to walk and pass through; you must keep waiting for them to pass through before starting to ride.

The awful cyclists manners have been frequently said everywhere, but much like many other cases in Japan (e.g. smoking while walking), the chance of being stopped/caught by police or any local authorities is close to zero. That's why many people still ride on the sidewalk without ever caring about pedestrians around them.

But still, don't imitate the behavior of others; observe the local regulations instead. Many people are frustrated with evil cyclists.


As to the original question - Is cycling in Tokyo safe? - it is generally safe. However, you should always lock your bicycle when you park it - otherwise it gets stolen easily.

-1

I would say yes and no. There's no designated cycling lane so it can be a little dangerous but driver's are a lot safer in Japan.
But then again I have also heard about people being hit by cars and I've also heard about a lot of people accidentally running into pedestrians on the sidewalk so it COULD be dangerous for both the cyclist and the pedestrians.

But just make sure that you are careful and make sure you have insurance and you should be fine.

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    Please do not add a question to your answer. If you have a question you can use the ask question button, top right of the page. But remember that we do not do product or shop recommendations. – Willeke Aug 20 '18 at 8:16

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