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A man rides his bicycle on the sidewalk in Tokyo on Thursday.
A man rides his bicycle on the sidewalk in Tokyo on Thursday. (Jim Schulz / S&S)
A man rides his bicycle on the sidewalk in Tokyo on Thursday.
A man rides his bicycle on the sidewalk in Tokyo on Thursday. (Jim Schulz / S&S)
Japanese police are cracking down on bicyclists who violate Road Traffic Law, such as reckless cycling and piggybacking, due to increasing numbers of accidents involving bicycle riders.
Japanese police are cracking down on bicyclists who violate Road Traffic Law, such as reckless cycling and piggybacking, due to increasing numbers of accidents involving bicycle riders. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

TOKYO — Japanese police, prompted by increasing numbers of accidents involving bicycle riders, are calling for cyclists to follow road traffic laws and targeting those who violate them.

A spike in bicycle accidents involving pedestrians have led police nationwide to focus on riders who violate road traffic laws such as reckless cycling and piggybacking — letting a passenger ride — National Police Agency officials said.

The emphasis on bicycle safety is part of a spring road safety campaign in April and bicycle month in May, police said, adding, “The number of bicyclists has increased” at a time when riders are exhibiting little knowledge of traffic regulations and lack of consideration for pedestrians.

Police also are issuing warnings to cyclists who violate traffic laws, such as ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, but said they may arrest “heinous and dangerous offenders who continue to ignore police warnings and continue to violate the law.”

Those convicted can face fines or even prison, police said: Up to three years in prison or a 50,000-yen fine (about $500) for riding bicycles while drunk. For ignoring traffic lights or piggybacking riders, cyclists can face up to three months in prison or a 50,000-yen fine.

Last year, officials said, police logged 2,243 bicycle accidents involving pedestrians — 302 more than the previous year. In 2003, 2,045 pedestrians were injured by bicyclists; in 2002, 1,739. Six pedestrians died in 2003 from bicycle accidents and three in 2002.

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