One of the most important purchases you can make in Japan is getting a bicycle. This is one of the major forms of transportation in the country and can be used in any area. The thing about bicycles is that you can easily find one in many places in Japan, but they can be in different conditions and price ranges. There are rules specifically for them, and there are a large number of attachments and add-ons you can put on it. The first step is learning the different rules that come with owning, driving and maintain your bicycle.
Rules of the Road
Bicycles are viewed in the same way as any other vehicle in Japan. You have some rules that apply only to them as well as the general rules of vehicle operation apply.
- No Drinking and Driving
Just like any other vehicle you cannot have any alcohol in your system when operating your bicycle. The blood alcohol acceptance level in Japan is zero, so even if you only had one sip of beer, you are over the limit. If you do have drinks and need to get your bike home you can walk it back to your place, but if you even sit on the seat and an officer sees you had too much to drink, they can arrest you. Try your best to remember this rule as it can truly ruin your stay in Japan.
- No Ear Phones
This is a rule that will see most people in Japan breaking while they are on their bikes in the city and small towns. This is illegal and can result in you getting pulled over and getting a warning or a ticket. You will see most officers simply watching people ride by with them in, but sometimes you will see them stop a person, especially if you are a foreigner. Just be careful when riding your bike and try to not use headphones.
Since a bicycle is considered a vehicle, you will need insurance when driving it. The insurance is just like any other and is meant to cover any damage you may inflict on anyone in case of an accident. These can cover any kind of collision you may find yourself involved in. You can buy it at any bike store, and it is generally inexpensive.
- Obey the Road Laws
There are rules that you must follow, such as staying near the or on the white lines on the left side of the road. Even though you can ride on the sidewalk it is acceptable to use the road to avoid people and go with the flow of traffic. Pay attention to the little things and you will not have any problems with the law.
Purchasing Your Bike
You can find there are quite a few places you can get a bicycle in Japan. You can try the always easy to spot bicycle shops and there can be a large variety of bikes to choose from. Prices can range from 10,000 to 100,000 yen. They will tend to have the biggest selection of styles and brands to choose from. There are the department stores which don’t have as wide of a selection, but they can have the lowest prices for the bikes they have available. You can also get all your insurance needs met there as well. They will usually have some kind of package deal that offers a reduced price for the insurance as well as a card that could give you discounts on repairs. Some supermarkets will sell them as well so you will have a good amount of places to check for new bicycles. If you want something a little less expensive you can try the recycle shops where you can get even better deals on preowned bikes. You won’t be guaranteed something that will work as new, but they will be in working order.
When you decide on which one you would like to purchase you will fill out all of the registration papers to put the bike and the license number of it in your name. This means that any tickets or accidents involving that particular bike will be put on you to take care of. If you don’t have any insurance, it could land you in deeper trouble with the police as well so make sure to keep up with it as time goes on.
Maintaining your bicycle is as easy as finding the nearest bicycle shop and asking for a repair. If you purchased it from a department store and got a card for it, they can fix all kinds of small problems that may arise. This can even be as small as checking and refilling the air in your tires. They are more than happy to help, even if you don’t have a store card. You can also do any repairs yourself, and all of the tools you’d need for it are at the stores. It is up to you to decide which one you think is best.
Having a bicycle is a big responsibility in Japan and can come with some unknown stress from parking and insurances. They are very helpful in many situations and can make life easier in the city. They are especially helpful for grocery shopping and seeing the local area.