Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office officially announced that it plans to prosecute Japanese cyclists who are repeatedly breaking traffic laws.
Cyclists could go to jail for three months or pay a fine of up to Y50,000 if they ignore a red light or if they do not stop when they should. Also riding parallel with other cyclists or not making use of one’s light under conditions of poor visibility could lead cyclists to pay fines of up to Y20,000 and Y50,000, respectively.
“There has been a clear decrease in road accidents involving automobiles and bicycles. However, the number of bicycle related accidents, compared with 10 years ago, has seen an increase of 13 percent,” said lawyer Shinpei Kazusawa who represents law firm Very Best, according to the local press.
Under the new prosecuting system, cyclists and car drivers will be on rather equal footing when it comes to responsible riding or driving.
“The tightening of the law is obviously a strategy to reduce any further bicycle-related accidents. But it is also a sign that many citizens are dissatisfied with the tolerance of the current road traffic laws,” lawyer Hironori Oze said.
Many people are, however, feeling that being penalized for ignoring a red light is a little too severe.
“Up until now most cyclists have avoided arrest or any form of penalty. Usually what is issued is a ‘guidance warning ticket’. In 2011, there were around 2 million warning tickets issued, in contrast to which only 4,000 arrests were made. Whilst arrests make up a meagre 0.2 percent of cases, they have admittedly been on the increase in recent years. For example, even if the infringement is slight, being the subject of arrest means through an indictment at court, the defendant can be financially penalized,” Kazusawa said.