Red light jumping Tokyo cyclists could face jail, says report

Toughening up of traffic laws aimed at improving road safety for cyclists

by Simon_MacMichael   March 27, 2013  

Tokyo (rdesai, Wikimedia Commons).jpg

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Cyclists in Japan’s capital city who repeatedly infringe traffic laws could reportedly face up to three months’ imprisonment after the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office announced it planned to crack down on law-breaking riders.

Rocket News 24 reports that offences such as failing to stop at a red light may also be punished with a fine of up to ¥50,000 (£350) or three months in jail.

The website says that failure to display lights when required will also attract a fine of ¥50,000, while “riding parallel with other cyclists” may result in a fine of ¥20,000 (£140).

It points out that while cyclists are currently potentially liable for prosecution for what it terms minor offences, in practice that does not happen, with authorities said to be cautious over taking action against bike riders when motorists, for example, can escape prosecution by paying fines in cases such as parking violations.

Lawyer Hironori Oze told the website: “The tightening of the law is obviously a strategy to reduce any further bicycle-related accidents. But it’s also a sign that many citizens are dissatisfied with the leniency of the current road traffic laws.” 

Rocket News 24 agrees that increased road safety appears to be the motive behind the crackdown on law-breaking cyclists, although as another lawyer, Shinpei Kazusawa points out, “There has been a clear decrease in road accidents involving automobiles and bicycles,” before adding, perhaps confusingly, “the number of bicycle related accidents, compared with 10 years ago, has seen an increase of 13 per cent.”

According to Kazusawa, “Up until now most cyclists have avoided arrest or any form of penalty. Usually what is issued is a ‘guidance warning ticket’.

“In 2011, there were around 2 million warning tickets issued [that sounds extremely high to us, but it’s what the Rocket News 24 article says – ed], in contrast to which only 4,000 arrests were made.

“Whilst arrests make up a meagre 0.2 percent of cases, they have admittedly been on the increase in recent years.

“For example, even if the infringement is slight, being the subject of arrest means through an indictment at court, the defendant can be financially penalised.”

The Rocket News 24 article concludes with its author expressing the hope that “If tougher laws mean a reduction in accidents I’m sure no one will have that much room for complaint” – although many would point out that there are much better ways of improving cycle safety than fining those who break the law or even throwing them in jail.

9 user comments

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Didn't expect the home of the keirin to be quite so draconian when it comes to bike safety.

posted by wild man [282 posts]
27th March 2013 - 20:31

11 Likes

“There has been a clear decrease in road accidents involving automobiles and bicycles,” before adding, perhaps confusingly, “the number of bicycle related accidents, compared with 10 years ago, has seen an increase of 13 per cent.”

I think perhaps what he means is that car-on-bike accidents have decreased whilst bike-on-road/pavement/ small yappy dog/ Godzilla/ Hello Kitty / bullet train etc accidents have increased.

posted by Some Fella [762 posts]
27th March 2013 - 20:39

4 Likes

What else could be expected when folks on the Cycling Road are constantly accosted by belligerent Pokémon trainers? Often even while they are travelling downhill at significant speed! Wink

posted by Ham-planet [89 posts]
28th March 2013 - 9:09

5 Likes

I checked the original Japanese article - it actually says 2.2 million warnings issued last year and 4000 convictions. Sounds high, but it is a nation of 125m people.

posted by Sakurashinmachi [48 posts]
28th March 2013 - 9:41

8 Likes

Ham-planet wrote:
What else could be expected when folks on the Cycling Road are constantly accosted by belligerent Pokémon trainers? Often even while they are travelling downhill at significant speed! Wink

You just made me spew water onto my work laptop. I might have to try and find my gameboy when I get home...

posted by hoski [65 posts]
28th March 2013 - 11:43

8 Likes

I think police stationed by lights with cans of spray string or custard pies would be a good deterrent to RLJers.

What bothers me in the UK is that many cyclists just don't seem to think the red light law applies to them, simply because they're on a bike. Why?? They'd be first to complain about a car jumping a red light.

But if you flout the law by cycling over a red light, why shouldn't a motorist be able to ignore the law as well?This is not about whether accidents are caused, it's about having respect for rules that also cover motorists' behaviour towards us cyclists.

I'm a human being, God damn it! My life has value. I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

posted by Carl [135 posts]
28th March 2013 - 13:27

7 Likes

Lucky i don't live in Tokyo. Riding parralel?

posted by karlowen [65 posts]
28th March 2013 - 17:57

7 Likes

I thought riding parralel was meant to be safer -

posted by Ciaran Patrick [117 posts]
29th March 2013 - 13:10

8 Likes

Good luck to 'em. Currently in Japan. The UK has a long, long way to go before we reach Japanese levels of bike use. And most of them are riding without helmets, locks or vague adherence to the road rules. And it all seems to work OK. 50 kph speed limits on the equivalent of A-roads probably helps, as do traffic lights every 100 metres or so.

posted by thebongolian [37 posts]
30th March 2013 - 11:39

7 Likes