A parliamentary working group in Japan has proposed the creation of a Ministry of Bicycle Promotion ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
According to Bike Europe, multiple agencies control cycling policy in Japan, leading to confusion and potentially conflicting laws.
The police establish the rules of the road, while the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism governs infrastructure, and the National Public Safety Commission publishes yet another set of rules for bicycles.
The draft proposal for the Bicycle Ministry, announced by Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, suggests that the Minister in charge should be a cyclist, leading to speculation that the man for the job could be 68-year-old Sadakazu Tanigaki, a keen road cyclist.
The draft calls on the government to promote cycling as an effective means of transportation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and urges it to develop infrastructure, including cycling lanes and parking lots, to encourage the use of bicycles.
The website Tokyo By Bike expresses concern about the appointment of Tanigaki however, saying:
“While we would welcome a newly created post of Bicycle Promotion Minister we question if Tanigaki is the right person for the job, even given his love of long distance cycling.
“The LDP have a track history of cronyism, and while there is no indication of who will work with the Bicycle Promotion Minister, but we assume there will be more career politicians, representatives of companies with a vested interests and countless Tokyo University "experts" and academics who have been on the government payroll for decades.
“While this should be a happy day for cycling advocates around Japan, how can we get excited about a bunch of politicians, sons and grandsons of politicians, with track records of corruption, self serving policies and ignoring public opinion, electing one of their ilk to a position that holds so much promise?”
Earlier this year we reported how 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.
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 Rocket News also 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.