If you live in Japan, chances are you ride a bike WAY MORE than you did in your home country. Some cities in Japan really make it easy to live a life on two wheels.
While cycling in Japan for transportation and recreation can be a fun habit, it does come with it's own set of challenges and risks. Here are some more do's and don'ts when it comes to riding a bike around Japan.
DO scan the road for hazards
Although Japan doesn't have a lot of litter everywhere, there are plenty of things that won't be good for your bike (and you) if you run them over or over them the wrong way. Be careful when biking around gutters, gas stations, driveways, and train tracks.
There are a lot of things built into Japan's infrastructure for your bike tires to get caught up in.
The edge of some gutters are raised slightly above the pavement and can pose a potential hazard.
Some grates and covers may be loose or have small gaps between them, look out!
Gas stations often have a little gutter that runs all the way around them. This is a perfect place for your tire to get caught.
Driveways in Japan aren't always a smooth ramp. In fact, some driveways are like tiny curbs that are a couple of inches high.
When you meet these obstacles, try to go over them at an angle that's 45 to 90 degrees (like hitting it head-on as opposed to next to it). You don't want to try to go across them at a 180-degree angle (parallel to it) because it'll probably end up in you getting dumped on your face!
DON'T speed through blind corners
Japan is full of blind corners and tiny streets that I can't believe accommodate two-way traffic.
Something that's smaller than an alley in my hometown can have buses going down it in both directions!
If you see mirrors hung up at intersections, use them. However, don't rely on them. You should still turn with caution. Check to make sure the coast is clear before committing to your turn
DO watch out for parked cars with passengers
You can look through the back window of some cars to see if someone's in the driver's seat (this is the person most likely to take you out if they suddenly open their door). You could also use the driver side mirror.
Using the mirror is another way to see if someone is in the driver's seat of a big truck (same message as the parentheses above).
DON'T ride behind cars that are backing up into parking spots
If you see someone in a parking lot turn in a direction where there's nowhere to go, they are probably going to start backing up.
Nice drivers usually signal they are going to reverse by hitting their hazard lights.
If you see someone backing up, either wait for them to stop or point your bike towards the front of their car (the opposite of the direction they are traveling).
DO ride like a car
People driving cars on the road are used to the driving behaviors of other cars. If you're riding unpredictably (like constantly moving from one side of the street to the other or constantly moving on and off the sidewalk), you may cause an accident!
DON'T box yourself in
Ideally, you want to have at least two different options if something is blocking your way.
Take this scenario for example:
You're riding down a small street with a wall on your left and a car on your right. You see a large object on the road right in front of you. What are you gonna do?
You're either going to have to brake suddenly, make impact with whatever's in front of you, crash into the wall, or crash into the car next to you.
If you make it a habit not to ride parallel with other cars, you're more likely to have an escape path. If you can, try to keep some space to your left and your right in case you have to take some evasive action. You'll be happy you did!
If all else fails, try to find the least worst spot to jump off and tuck 'n roll. Remember to stay relaxed as you biff it!
DO bike with your light generator on during the day
If you roll around with your generator on, it makes noise and lets people know you're coming. It will also increase your visibility. It's not like you're using up batteries and LED light bulbs keep going for a long time. You've got nothing to lose!
DON'T dress like a ninja at night
Unless you're on some kinda stealth mission, wearing all black in a dark area will make you less visible (and more likely to get hit by a car).
You can pick up some things at a hundred yen shop that'll really make you stand out. You can get retro-reflective vests, bands, and sashes as well as extra lights that attach to clothes or bags to help you stand out and stay safe.
DO look through your turns
This is something I picked up from my time riding motorcycles.
I often tell people that you should look where you're going because you're going to go where you're looking!
If you're turning left, turn your head and look left before you turn. Keep your eyes focused on where you wanna go.
You'll be able to see your path of travel, it'll help naturally lean the bike a little, and you can be sure that you've chosen a safe path.
DON'T go for long rides without tools
There are times when something will break on your bike that you could fix if you only had a screwdriver or a set of hex keys. It may be helpful to carry a few of these (and some electrical/duct tape) for emergency repairs if you go on far rides.
If you don't mind spending the cash, go for a bicycle tool kit (these usually include tire patching kits as well) or a multi-tool. You'll also need a bike pump or a can of air for fixing flats. If you don't want to make the investment, you can find some pretty good stuff at your favorite ￥100 shop.
DO buy fenders
Though this isn't much of a safety tip, it can keep you from looking like you've had an accident when you ride over mud or a puddle.
Fenders will help keep the liquid and mysterious street water from flying up and hitting you in the back!
DON'T put your feet down before you stop
If something happens to you unexpectedly and you're not in immediate danger of hitting something, do your best to bring the bike to a spot without putting your feet down.
If you try to stop the bike with your feet, chances are your bike will continue on without you, you'll throw off your balance, and you'll fall going at the speed you were on the bike.
That does it for my bike safety tips. I hope you have a safe time biking around Japan. Do you have any more tips? Is there something I forgot? Leave a comment!
If you liked this post, check out some of our other posts:
14 Do's and Dont's for Bicycle Safety In Japan
UPDATED: 7 Things You NEED To Do Before Going To Teach English In Japan
9 Things You Can Do Before Teaching Class To Make Your Day Great
Bicycling in Japan - Know the Laws - http://japaninfoswap.com/bicycle-japan-know-the-laws/
Traffic Safety Guidelines for Pedestrians and Cyclists - http://japaninfoswap.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/traffic_safety_english.pdf
Bike Safety - https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/bike-safety.html
NHTSA Bike Safety - https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/bicycle-safety
11 Tips For Biking in the Rain - https://www.rei.com/blog/cycle/11-tips-for-biking-in-the-rain