Friends in Japan tell me that it’s really rude to use my bicycle bell. I always ask them what else I’m supposed to do make people – especially groups of people – move to the side when I’m cycling… I mean, I could very slowly cycle around them but then I’d still be risking hitting one of them. Or I could keep hitting the brakes and make that really loud annoying sound that would probably make them realize I want to pass. Or I could just ring my bell, which is part of my bicycle anyway and then just say Sumimasen (Excuse me.) and bow while passing.
Bike courtesy is something people always bring up when talking about manners and how there is a serious lack of them recently. Others, of course, include behavior in the train, loud chatting or smoking in non-smoking areas. Since I have to rely on my bicycle to get me places, I try to be as responsible as I can when cycling through town. So when I caught wind of the new bicycle laws that have been passed recently, I started to panic. Most of the stuff on the poster I saw were stuff I already knew: prohibition against riding with an umbrella, no parking in areas not designated as parking areas, no cycling on pedestrian lanes, etc. But what got to me was the extremely unreasonable fines. For leaving your bicycle in a no parking area, you have to pay a maximum fine of ￥50,000! I’d just leave my bicycle there then… I thought.
Then things like overtaking senior citizens would cost up to ￥300,000. I had to ask one of my friends to translate this properly for me. I had to ask her several times if she was sure it was overtaking and not bumping the elderly pedestrian while overtaking. She just kept repeating that it was overtaking, just overtaking. To be fair, a lot if not all of the rules were reasonable. I was just concerned about the penalties. So I had to ask, “How about ringing your bell, what’s the penalty for that?”, just to receive a “No, that’s not on here…”
Irony. (After reading the above article, however, it seems bell ringing has been added to the list! I think I’ll just walk.)