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Kyoto bicycle riding etiquette: How should I ride?

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

Just a few thoughts for you to help make your bike ride with Kyoto Bike Tour that much more enjoyable.

It seems like people are cycling all over the place. Is there a pattern to this style of cycling or something I need to know beforehand?

Where are the helmets? I see so many school kids and elderly cycling around.

What kind of rider are you? Let's enjoy a safe and fun bicycling experience on the backstreets of Arashiyama and amongst the bamboo forests of Kyoto.

Kyoto Bicycle Riding Etiquette 101

For as rule regulated a country as Japan is, it is quite surprising to many to notice the disregard for a set of rules when it comes to bicycle riding in Kyoto. So the big question is, what is acceptable etiquette for riding a bicycle in Kyoto? A general rule of thumb when riding a bike in all of Japan is to ride on the left. Although this is something of an unwritten rule and not enforced it is a courtesy gesture whenever possible. As of late, there has been an awareness campaign to encourage more people to cycle on the left side of the road to create less confusion for drivers. However, you will still see people of all ages riding any which way they like.

An accessory on bikes in Japan that quickly catches your eye is the presence of a bell. This is also a great topic of mention when it comes to bicycle etiquette in Japan. It is common courtesy to let fellow cyclists as well as pedestrians know if you are near them by giving a light ring on the bell. You will find it actually rather enjoyable and be surprised to see the smiles you receive for the kind gesture of letting others know that you are passing by on your bicycle.

Why do I see so many people without helmets? Japan’s helmet law requires those 13 years and younger to use a helmet. Many people in Japan use their bicycles for all types of activities. This could be anything from a short grocery run, a ride to school, or an excursion with the family to the other side of town. Many people are riding at a moderate pace and car drivers in Japan tend to be a little more used to seeing cyclists on the road than in many of our home countries. At Kyoto Bike Tour it is always safety first and we provide helmets with all our bikes as well as ride at a moderate pace. We know how a helmet can be good for peace of mind but we also like to leave it up to individual preference just in case you wish to ride as many locals do.

Let’s make a good impression as visitors by safely and courteously cruising the back streets of Arashiyama with our proper bike etiquette.


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