Cycling in Kyoto
Cycling in Kyoto
Bicycles are great to get around Kyoto. If I didn’t know better, the original founders of Kyoto established Kyoto with the idea of cycling in Kyoto. The city happens to be conveniently laid out in a grid. Riding etiquette and rules can differ but have a quick look at the tips below to enjoy a safer ride around Kyoto. Once you get used to the grid layout of Kyoto and main streets etc., you’ll find it is easy to find the main temples and other sites.
Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (KCTP)
Judging from the name, it sounds more like a university project rather than a company. However, KCTP is unique in that it has meshed an entrepreneurial spirit with social initiative to promote bicycle culture in Kyoto. KCTP is trying to promote bicycles and a new bicycle culture by working with Kyoto municipal government authorities. For example, providing more bicycle paths or specially designated bicycle lanes to make it easier for people to safely use bicycles.
In the past few years, Kyoto City has provided more parking areas for bicycles and low-cost rental bicycle ports citizens can use. These are but a few measures, however KCTP has been very strategic in facilitating these measures, and I have no doubt they will continue to influence future policies related to bicycles.
Bicycles range from ¥1,000-2,000/day to rent. They have three categories of bicycles broken down into Comfort, Mountain, and MiniVelo. Within each category they are reduced further into Standard and High (Special) Class. Bicycle Types
Length of Rental (Daily: 9:00-19:00)
◊ Extra ¥500 insurance that covers theft and flat tires etc.
◊ Accident Insurance is not included in rental cost
◊¥400 extra fee if bicycle is returned to a shop other than original shop designated upon rental
◊ Bicycles impounded due to illegal parking are the responsibility of the renter and additional costs of ¥3,300 or more will be added (costs to return bicycle)
Of course you are able to explore Kyoto by yourself on a bicycle. However, you can also decide to arrange a tour and choose 1 of any 6 tours KCTP offers (KCTP Tour Packages).
Tours usually start at 9:15-9:30 am and run till about 17:30. They are generally divided into:
half-day (short course) 3 hours
full day (long course) around 7 hours
Related to number of people and length of tour. The more people you have, the cheaper it becomes. Accident insurance is included in the tour price.
View KCTP Shop Locations in a larger map
◊ Information referenced from KCTP Homepage
In general, pedestrians are supposed to use the sidewalk and bicycles travel along the road unless signs specify otherwise. However, the reality is while cycling in Kyoto you’ll probably find yourself in a situation where lines of demarcation are blurred and you’ll have to follow your instincts rather than the signs.
Contrary to rules of the road in many other countries you will find most cyclists ride on the sidewalk. According to traffic rules cyclists are allowed on the sidewalk when signs are posted.
◊ Riding against traffic is forbidden (ride on left side)
◊ Doubling (two persons on one bicycle)
◊ Riding side by side (single file only)
◊ Riding without a light turned on at nighttime
◊ Riding under influence of alcohol
◊ Riding while holding an umbrella (usually not enforced)
◊ Helmets must be worn by children(13 and under)
◊ Give way to pedestrians
Note: These are all offenses that are punishable under the law, however many times police turn a blind eye to most of these infractions and will probably let most offenses go with a simple warning (exception is alcohol). Just use common sense when you ride and know what the law of the land is.
◊ Ride on side closest to road (in general but use commonsense)
◊ Give older Japanese cyclists more time
◊ Get off and push in event of many pedestrians
◊ Use your bell to alert pedestrians to your presence (when bicycling on sidewalk)
◊ Bicyclists riding against traffic and directly in your path
◊ Pedestrians (bicyclist is always in the wrong in case of accident)
◊ Bicyclists not obeying traffic lights
◊ Turning blind corners (oncoming reckless bicyclists)
◊ Pedestrians/Bicyclists not paying attention (earphones in ears; using cellphones)
Keep a look out for these signs. They are visible around most train stations and other main thoroughfares. Trucks hired by the city usually go around and impound bicycles parked in these prohibited zones. If your bicycle is impounded, you will have to pay a fine of ¥2,300 to get your bicycle back.
In general, most covered arcades are off-limits to bicycles unless you dismount and push it. However, you’ll probably find most people disobey this rule. Popular downtown areas tend to be more strictly enforced though. More specifically, covered arcades such as Nishiki Market; Teramachi; Shinkyogoku are off-limits. Also, Kawaramachi Street running north/south between Sanjo to Shijo Street is off-limits. In addition, the section of Shijo Street running east/west between Karasuma Street and just before the Shijo Bridge are typically no bicycle zones. You will see other people riding their bicycles, but make no mistake, it’s against the law and police may stop you if they catch you.
View Off-Limit Bicycle Areas in a larger map
Signs Designating Bicycles on Sidewalk
Bicycle lanes on the sidewalk will usually be distinguishable by a sign or other mark. In Kyoto, bicycle lanes are located on the side closest to the road, so they can be on either your left or right-hand side. For example, sometimes you’ll see a red or brownish colour path.
When cycling in Kyoto sometimes lanes will not be visible at first glance. The picture above is one such case. Even if you realise it’s a bicycle path, chances are you’ll still have to navigate around the pedestrians who don’t. In any case, the lane for bicycles will always be located on the side closest to the road, even though you will quite regularly see pedestrians walking in the bicycle lane.
At most major temples and sightseeing spots there should be areas for bicycles to park. Some will charge a fee while others will be free. I would advise searching for a designated bicycle parking area to avoid any misunderstandings. The major parking areas are as follow.
5 Main Parking Areas (¥200/day to use one or all)
View Kyoto: Main Bicycle Parking Areas in a larger map