Bicycle riding in Japan

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Katte2Q took a short look at bicycle riding.

I used to ride a bike when I very first came to Japan, riding to work perhaps two or three times a week or so, and occasionally going further afield, but then I moved out too far from work, but too close to the station to need the wheels. It would probably be classed as a cross bike, but when I moved one time I just left it in the bike park at my old residence…

Here’s a typical scene of bikes parked around a shopping area; nearly all the bikes are the typical city bikes, three gears if you’re lucky, and brakes that squeal something awful!

More bikes
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Four in five Japanese fiddle while walking, one in five while riding

Do you use your mobile phone while cycling? graph of japanese statisticsjapan,internet.com recently reported on a survey by goo Research into mobile phones in daily life, concentrating in the article on the use of mobile phones when walking and cycling.

Demographics

Between the 14th and 17th of March 2013 1,071 members of the goo Research online monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 52.8% of the sample were male, 16.8% in their teens, 18.4% in their twenties, 21.3% in their thirties, 16.4% in their forties, 15.4% in their fifties, and 11.7% aged sixty or older.

This is a quite timely survey, as just a couple of days ago there was the news that a 10-year-old boy fell off a Tokyo station platform while using his mobile phone.
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Almost half of Japan wants an electric bike

This survey from goo Research, reported on by japan.internet.com, into bicycles found just over 50% wanting an electric bike, but of course there’s always a gap between “wanting” and “purchasing”.

Demographics

Between the 20th and 22nd September 2011 1,101 members of the goo Research online monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 52.8% of the sample were male, 16.5% in their teens, 18.1% in their twenties, 21.3% in their thirties, 16.2% in their forties, 15.8% in their fifties, and 12.2% aged sixty or older.

For some reason the introduction to the article mentioned that you can get Doraemon and Snoopy limited edition folding bicycles, which are rather popular with certain segments of the population. So there you go.

Bicycles are in the news recently, specifically piste bikes as they are known in Japan, bikes with fixed gears and no brakes except for back-pedalling, so are illegal due to the lack of brakes. I’ve not seen them around my neck of the woods, but seem to be popular in Tokyo, causing quite a number of accidents.
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Getting around in Japan: part 2 of 2

When you need to go somewhere within cycling distance, how to you get there? graph of japanese statisticsThe government of Japan may have changed, but the Cabinet Office Japan surveys are carrying on – it’ll be interesting to see if I can detect a change in tone in the questions. This survey was entitled a built environment for pedestrians, but also covered most other local transport means.

Demographics

Between the 16th of July and the 2nd of August 2009 5,000 members of the public were selected at random to complete the survey; 3,157 people, or 63.1%, agreed to cooperate. 54.4% of this sample were female, 7.8% in their twenties, 14.3% in their thirties, 17.1% in their forties, 19.8% in their fifties, 23.4% in their sixties, and 17.6% aged seventy or older. Additionally, 46.1% were employed, 11.6% were self-employed, 3.0% were home workers, and 39.3% were unemployed, including students and housewives, who made up 60.9% of that 39.3%. Finally, 47.8% drove some form of motorised transport almost every day, 15.7% several times a week, 7.3% several times a month, 8.3% had a licence but didn’t drive, and 20.9% did not have a licence.

For me, to walk or cycle to the shops involves traversing an exceptionally steep hill and a bit of pavement-free road, whereas instead my train season ticket allows me to hop on a train and ride one stop down the line to get right into my suburban town centre.
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Getting around in Japan: part 1 of 2

Do you agree that a built environment for pedestrians should be promoted? graph of japanese statistics
The government of Japan may have changed, but the Cabinet Office Japan surveys are carrying on – it’ll be interesting to see if I can detect a change in tone in the questions. This survey was entitled a built environment for pedestrians, but also covered most other local transport means.

Demographics

Between the 16th of July and the 2nd of August 2009 5,000 members of the public were selected at random to complete the survey; 3,157 people, or 63.1%, agreed to cooperate. 54.4% of this sample were female, 7.8% in their twenties, 14.3% in their thirties, 17.1% in their forties, 19.8% in their fifties, 23.4% in their sixties, and 17.6% aged seventy or older. Additionally, 46.1% were employed, 11.6% were self-employed, 3.0% were home workers, and 39.3% were unemployed, including students and housewives, who made up 60.9% of that 39.3%. Finally, 47.8% drove some form of motorised transport almost every day, 15.7% several times a week, 7.3% several times a month, 8.3% had a licence but didn’t drive, and 20.9% did not have a licence.

I have a licence but rent a car about once every two months or so, so I don’t really know where I would fall in the demographic question above. I also managed to get a fixed penalty parking fine (15,000 yen!) last weekend, but that’s another story.

My commute is train only – my home is one minute from the station, work is two minutes away at the other end, so I cannot see any point in having a car.
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Mobiles while mobile in Japan

How often do you use a mobile phone while driving a vehicle? graph of japanese statisticsDespite a law being passed to forbid the use of mobiles while driving cars or riding bicycles, even the casual observer will see that the law is not being adhered to. To try to quantify how much, Point On Research conducted a survey reported on by japan.internet.com into mobile phone use while on the move.

Demographics

On the 16th of June 2009 800 members of the Point On monitor group who were heavy users of mobile phones completed a private internet-based questionnaire. The sample was exactly 50:50 male and female, 25.0% in their teens, 25.0% in their twenties, 25.0% in their thirties, and 25.0% in their forties.

From my casual observations as a pedestrian, I am not terribly surprised at these numbers, although I am surprised by the amount of people admitting that they are doing it.

One could argue in Q1SQ2 that perhaps many of the phone talkers are using hands-free equipment, I suppose, but sadly it doesn’t distinguish between the two options.
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Vast majority of Japanese riders are scofflaws

How often do you ride a bicycle? graph of japanese opinionAt the start of September MyVoice surveyed their internet monitor pool to find out their bicycle usage habits. 13,091 people successfully complete the private opinion poll; 46% were male, 3% in their teens, 21% in their twenties, 38% in their thirties, 25% in their forties, and 13% aged fifty or older.

It may be interesting to refer to a survey from last year on carrying children on bicycles. Riding is downright dangerous for not just the rider, but pedestrians and cars too, as rules of the road (or pavement) are mostly ignored. The average rider seems to treat ringing the bell or squeeking the brakes as a sign to everyone that says “Get out of the way or I’ll run you over!”

Note that the standard bicycle in Q2 is most often a heavy, single gear machine with front basket and very unsubtle brakes. When I was a kid, the nearest thing was the boring old three-speed Raleigh, which was probably more technically sophisticated than the current Japanese models!
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Kid skid-lid bid

There’s been a survey of parents who carry their pre-school children on pedal bikes, and surprise, surprise, barely one in twenty actually makes their kid wear a helmet. The Japan Traffic Safety Association plan a campaign to persuade parents to protect their children. The gory details are as follows:

Sample size – 7,194 from all around the country, interviewed in February and March of this year around various creches and nurseries. The sex breakdown of the sample is implied to be all female. Note that the “Not clear” answer means that the mark on the answer sheet could not be read or was completed incorrectly, as this was a survey for people to fill out by themselves.

Q1: Have you (or anyone in your family) ridden your bike with a child on board?

Yes59.8%
No39.9%
Don’t know0.2%
Not clear0.1%

Q2: If you have, have you had an accident with a child on board within the last year? (Sample size=4302)

Yes13.1%
No86.6%
Don’t know0.0%
Not clear0.3%

Q3: If you have had an accident, how many times within the last year? (Sample size=564)

Once70.4%
Twice21.3%
Thrice4.8%
Four times1.2%
Five times or more0.7%
Don’t know0.7%
Not clear0.9%

Q4: If you have had an accident, how many children riding were injured? If more than one accident in the last year, describe the more recent one. (Sample size=564)

One82.6%
Two16.1%
Three0.2%
Four or more0.0%
Not clear1.1%

Q5: What were the ages of those injured in Q4? (Sample size=651 children)

0 years old0.9%
1 year old12.0%
2 years old19.0%
3 years old19.8%
4 years old21.4%
5 years old15.4%
6 years old8.3%
7 years or older0.5%
Don’t know0.2%
Not clear2.6%

Q6: Where were those injured in Q4 riding? (Sample size=651 children)

Child seat in front of the handlebars13.8%
Child seat between handlebars and saddle27.3%
Child seat behind saddle48.2%
Non-child seat use luggage rack5.4%
Piggy-backing on rider0.5%
Don’t know0.5%
Other1.7%
Not clear2.6%

Sadly, we don’t have a figure to say where children normally ride, in order to give some sort of idea if certain locations may lead to more accidents.

Q7: Which part of the body was most seriously injured? (Sample size=651 children)

Head17.7%
Face11.4%
Shoulders0.2%
Chest0.0%
Stomach0.5%
Back0.2%
Bottom0.2%
Hands or arms16.1%
Feet or legs43.6%
Don’t know3.2%
Other3.8%
Not clear3.2%

Q8: How serious was the injury? (Sample size=651 children)

Over two weeks in hospital0.2%
One day to two weeks in hospital0.2%
A number of out-patient/clinic visits7.1%
One out-patient/clinc visit6.0%
Didn’t visit doctor64.8%
Don’t know0.5%
Other18.1%
Not clear3.2%

Sadly, here there is no cross-referencing between location of injury and seriousness of injury.

Q9: Was the child wearing a helmet when injured? (Sample size=651 children)

Yes1.2%
No96.3%
Don’t know0.0%
Not clear2.5%

Q10: Whereabouts was the bike when the accident occurred? (Sample size=564 accidents)

When going across a step (kerb etc)9.4%
When turning left or right6.9%
When moving away from a stop14.0%
When stopping5.0%
When moving in another fashion13.8%
When parking (engaging or disengaging stand, etc)35.8%
When pushing bike5.5%
Don’t know0.7%
Other7.4%
Not clear1.4%

Q11: What was the cause of the accident? (Sample size=564 accidents)

Wheel hit a rut or obstacle avoidance caused loss of balance56.0%
Collision with other bicycle or motorbike3.5%
Collision with car3.4%
Collision with pedestrian0.7%
Collision with other object2.5%
Child fell out of seat, etc8.5%
Child got foot trapped in wheel, etc9.0%
Don’t know5.9%
Other6.7%
Not clear3.7%

Q12: Did you notify the police after the accident? (Sample size=564 accidents)

Yes2.5%
No95.0%
Don’t know0.4%
Not clear2.1%

Q13: If you did not notify the police after the accident, why not? (Sample size=536 accidents)

No serious injuries59.0%
I didn’t think it was necessary to report bicycle accidents when riding11.4%
I didn’t think it was necessary to report bicycle accidents when pushing or parking10.3%
I didn’t think it was necessary to report bicycle accidents involving only myself6.2%
It wasn’t on the public road, but private land at home, etc6.9%
Don’t know2.2%
Other3.7%
Not clear0.4%

Q14: If you answered Yes in Q1, do you use a child helmet when riding? (Sample size=4302 women)

Always use1.2%
Sometimes use1.4%
Never use95.4%
Don’t know0.1%
Not clear1.9%

Q15: If you answered Always or Sometimes in Q14, for what reasons do you use a child helmet when riding? Multiple answers allowed. (Sample size=112 women)

There’s lots of accidents, and I’ve seen and heard information about this52.7%
Family or friends recommended I use it22.3%
Reduce risk, increase safety18.8%
Experienced accidents or injury8.0%
Family or friends have had an accident7.1%
Obligatory abroad, obligation to parents4.5%
Bicycle shop recommendation3.6%
Children want to2.7%
Requested to wear one riding to nursery, etc0.9%
Municipality recommendation0.9%
Nursery, creche, etc recommended it0.0%
Don’t know0.0%
Other10.7%
Not clear0.0%

Q15: If you answered Never in Q14, for what reasons do you not use a child helmet when riding? Multiple answers allowed. (Sample size=4105 women)

I didn’t know a helmet was needed when going to nursery, etc41.8%
It’s troublesome28.9%
It’s extra luggage24.1%
I don’t know where they are sold23.6%
I don’t ride so as to cause injury16.7%
Children don’t want to wear it15.3%
I don’t know how effective they are13.1%
The price is high10.3%
Frequency is low (ie won’t use it much?)4.7%
Never thought of it or been aware of it3.3%
Not seen many people around me wearing them2.3%
Don’t know4.2%
Other10.0%
Not clear0.2%

Q16: Within the last year, have you attended road saftey lectures for guardians or families? (Sample size=7194 women)

Yes9.3%
No87.0%
Don’t know2.1%
Not clear1.6%

Q17: What measures do you think would be effective to avoid serious accidents? (Sample size=7194 women)

Sufficient safety education for guardians68.9%
Child helmets when riding two-up48.6%
Flatten kerbs on pavements47.8%
Accident risk warning posters46.3%
Stricter road safety laws for bicycle riders26.0%
Develop a bicycle that’s hard to fall off25.6%
Other5.9%
Don’t know2.2%
Not clear1.4%

Q18: Regarding making wearing of child helmets compulsory, what do you think should be done? (Sample size=7194 women)

Should make it compulsory immediately (to Q19)31.2%
Too soon to make it compulsory (to Q20)21.1%
I couldn’t accept it being compulsory (to Q21)33.8%
Don’t know12.6%
Not clear1.3%

Q19: For what reasons should it be made compulsory immediately? (Sample size=2246 women)

Increasing the safety of children should be a priority91.3%
If it’s not compulsory, no-one will use them72.0%
I’ve seen and heard about lots of accidents occurring26.9%
Other countries make it mandatory5.4%
My family or friend’s children have been injured5.1%
Don’t know0.0%
Other6.0%
Not clear0.0%

Q20: For what reasons do you think it is too soon to make them compulsory? (Sample size=1520 women)

The level of awareness amongst guardians is not high enough to make it compulsory84.5%
There are few shops selling them28.8%
I don’t know by how much it would reduce head injury27.5%
Price is high26.3%
Limited range of models18.6%
Other13.2%
Don’t know0.8%
Not clear0.3%

Q21: For what reasons could you not accept them being compulsory? (Sample size=2428 women)

It is better if the guardian decides69.3%
Children won’t like wearing them35.5%
Extra luggage to carry31.3%
Takes money29.5%
Even if used, I don’t think head injuries will decrease16.4%
Other15.7%
Don’t know1.9%
Not clear0.5%

Q22: How often do you ride with a child on board? (Sample size=7194 women)

Just about every day20.2%
Three or four times a week7.6%
One or two times a week8.0%
Two or three times a month9.0%
Almost never ride together10.5%
Almost never ride a bike at all43.4%
Not clear1.4%
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