Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bicycles on pavements: Does it work in Japan?

Sidewalk cycling in Tokyo

Singapore is getting closer to a decision about legalising bicycle use on footways, at least in Tampines.

So I was pleased to stumble on a relevant paper. It focuses on Japan's experience. Since 1978 Japan has been the only major country to allow bicycle riding on most footway pavements. Scroll down for the author's conclusion.

Evaluation of shared use of bicycles and pedestrians in Japan

Author(s): P. Zhe, H. Yamanaka & K. Kakihara

Shared use of bicycles and pedestrians on sidewalks can be commonly seen all over Japan.

Cycling on sidewalks in Japan was permitted from 1978 following deregulation of the Road Traffic Law, which was urgent treatment to secure cyclists’ safety due to a lack of road space.

This was permitted on sidewalks with appropriate width and traffic conditions.

Although bicycles are still regarded as a vehicle and cyclists have to use the carriageway along with motor vehicles according to the Road Traffic Law, many bicycle users prefer to use sidewalks.

Cycle/pedestrian shared use would surely be disadvantageous related to the safety and amenity of pedestrians, and to the reduction of cycling speed.

Shared use with pedestrians, however, has advantages of safety and freedom for utility cyclists, which seems to be related to the fact that Japan has a high level of the modal share of bicycles used for going shopping or to school.

In addition, the number of women or aged users tends to be high compared with major motorized countries.

The aim of this study is to evaluate the level-of-service of shared use by pedestrians and bicycles, from the viewpoints of users’ safety and comfort considering traffic volume in shared use space.

By using a video survey of shared use streets, the authors analyzed the relationship between cycling speed, frequency of hindrance and traffic density or traffic volume of street users.

In conclusion, the author proposes the conditions necessary to apply shared use of bicycles and pedestrians on the sidewalks, considering the traffic flow of pedestrians and bicycles per width of sidewalks Keywords:
bicycle, shared use, level-of-service, Japan.

Pages: 10
Size: 1,017 kb
And here is their conclusion:
"The authors analysed hindrance behaviour by considering traffic volume per sidewalk width of pedestrians and bicycles, and proposed the minimum level of traffic conditions needed to apply shared use of bicycles and pedestrians on the sidewalks. As a result the necessary condition to coexistence of bicycles and pedestrians was found to be less than 0.5 pedestrians/minute/m and less than 3.0cyclists/minute・m. The standard for pedestrian/bicycle share use in terms of hourly traffic volume is less than 26 pedestrians / hour and 108 cyclists / hour for 2m wide sidewalks.

In future studies we aim to look at development of education or information methods (signs, road marking, colouring, etc.) on the street for bicycles and pedestrians to ensure the safety and comfort shared use for utility cyclists."

My take on what this means for Singapore? If we do legalise pavement cycling, we should also make an effort to provide attractive detours for bicycle users to avoid busy sections of walkway OR dramatically widen the effective width of the pavement at busy sections.

The paper pdf is free to download but you need to register first.


HanSolo said...

Another point is that bicycle thefts in Japan are rare.

If we want to promote bicycles as a viable alternative, we have to clamp down on this serious problem in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

This is wrong, bicycle theft is a big problem in Japan.

Chek this from: http://www.whynotjapan.com/articles/5-en.htm

Another pain in the butt is bicycle theft. The crime rate in Japan is quite low, except for the rampant theft of umbrellas and bicycles. Just a couple weeks ago my bicycle was stolen so I had to walk home in the freezing cold (and it was my birthday, too!). A couple of days later I used my credit card to pay for a shiny new bicycle, and then ONE HOUR LATER I found my stolen bike on the ground in front of my gym! So now I have two bikes. What do I need two bikes for?! The theft itself was less annoying than the fact that the thief just dumped the bike 2 blocks from where he stole it. On a different occasion I went to pick up my bike outside of Namba Parks and I caught a guy trying to break the ring lock on my back wheel so he could steal it. I just tapped him on the shoulder and calmly said "Ummmmm, that's my bike". He ran away so fast that he crashed into a few bikes on the way!! Maybe because he was about half my body weight and feared for his life.

Chu Wa said...

later on the same blog post:
"..if you can deal with those annoyances..., then a bike is the best way to navigate the streets of Osaka. A bike in Japan is something useful rather than just a recreational item."
The author obviously enjoy cycling commuting in Osaka!"
Theft is an annoyance, not a big problem when comparing to other factors such as road safety, or very long distance.

Anonymous said...

I wonder did the article talk about accident on pavements?

Although the main concern is safety, I suspect accidents on pavements are rare.

As for bicycle thefts, I believe this is inevitable. Locking a bicycle in public place is just like securing a stack of dollar notes in public place. Surely there will be people who want to "take" it.

kobinata said...

Many streets in Tokyo do not have pavement at all. Cars, bicycles and pedestrians share the street, with priority to the weakest. This is in effect equivalent to the German "30km/h zones" in residential areas.
In many countries large pavements carry a clearly marked cycling lane, that pedestrians are supposed to avoid.

What we need to encourage cycling as a transport mode here in Singapore is a network of low speed roads, preferably back streets rather than lanes on the main streets. This would include residential area streets (which could do without the pavement to remind cars that they are welcomed as long as they adapt their speed), park connectors, and in some cases a shared pavement where cycling on the road is too dangerous and bicycle lanes cannot be offered.

Paul Barter said...

Kobinata, I think you make a very good point. A bicycle network for Singapore could involve many options, not just bike lanes on main roads and not just bikes on pavements. More traffic calming on the smaller streets would greatly expand the space for ordinary timid cyclists who now fear to ride anywhere except the pavements.

Sivasothi said...

A critical point is the "priority to the weakest."

Anonymous said...

Police in Tokyo are clamping down on cycling on pavements less than 3 meters wide, due mostly to the dramatic increase in the number of people cycling since last years quake. Cycling on the pavement in Tokyo has always annoyed me as it is dangerous. And as a cyclist in Tokyo i found the most dangerous thing after taxi drivers is people on their shopping bikes.
If Singapore is to consider allowing cyclists on the pavement, I would be in favour of having all cyclists do a proficiency test, as well as making it compulsory to register bicycles and have some sort of policing to ensure cyclists have safe bikes, i.e. lights & working brakes etc.
i personally will continue to use the road. Only been out a couple of times round Orchard, Raffles, bugis and so far find it a little safer than downtown Tokyo, and much safer than London.

Back2Nature said...

Shopping bikes dangerous? I agree that many may FEEL so, but feeling might not be true. Does anyone have statistics on the number and seriousness of accidents/incidents/injuries related to shopping bikes?