Note: This is a work in progress. Please make a comment below if you have any specific questions you’d like answered. We’ll strive to respond as soon as possible.
Can I use a bear/cow/hiking bell on my handlebars while cycling in the city in Hokkaido?
Is it illegal to ride a tandem in Hokkaido?
- Short answer | UPDATE (2020/03/19): From April 1st 2020, to tandem bicycles are legal to ride in Hokkaido! So no, it’s not illegal to ride a tandem bicycle in Hokkaido. An amendment to the Hokkaido road bylaw has made this possible (see the Hokkaido Police announcement here | Our translation here).
Yes, but it doesn’t matter – ride your tandem and you’ll be just fine.
- For elsewhere in Japan (LONG ANSWER, with references): Elsewhere, it may be technically illegal to ride a tandem bicycle on public roads. That is, on almost all public roads outside of Hokkaido, yes, it is illegal to ride – you are not allowed to ride a tandem (sorry Graeme and Betty). On designated cycleways, no, it is not illegal – you can ride a tandem.
BUT, I would find it impossibly unlikely that tandem bicycle riders would encounter the law being enforced. See Tokyo by Bike’s reasoning here. Furthermore, upon calling the Sapporo Cycling Association last year (before the bylaw change in Hokkaido), a representative said they couldn’t imagine police calling well-equipped tandem tourers out (they’d certainly never heard of it happening). Also, Kai in the comments below tells us “we have been touring on our tandem for 3 weeks in June 2019 all around Hokkaido without any harassment. We got the looks of lots of police, however they were not interested in stopping us and treated us like any other cyclist. Great trip.”
As far as Japan national road law is concerned, it is permissible for as many people to ride a vehicle as there are seats to do so (See Article 57 of the national Road Traffic Act – in Japanese). Bicycles are classed as vehicles, so for all intents and purposes, the Road Traffic Act allows as many people on a bike as there are saddles/seats. However, the national Road Traffic Act has a provision which allows for prefectural bylaws to override the national Road Traffic Act in regards to ‘light’ vehicles (keisharyou – 軽車両), of which bicycles are a variety (Article 57-2) . Unfortunately, according to Hokkaido road law, two- and three-wheeled cycles are not allowed to have more than one person riding them at the same time (Article 10-1 (p.10) of the Hokkaido Road Traffic Law).
Do I need to register my bicycle in Hokkaido/Japan?
- Short answer: For most people reading this page, the answer is no. If you don’t live in Japan, you do not need to register your bicycle.
- Long answer: I just called the Hokkaido Police to find out a definite answer to this issue. I said “What if someone from overseas, who has no Japan address or phone number, comes to Japan for cycle touring for a few months? They plan to be here for an indefinite period of time, but will not have a Japanese address or telephone number during that time.”
Here is what I was told (paraphrased): “Bicycle registration is only required by law if the owner of the bicycle has a Japanese residential address and phone number. In order to register your bicycle in Japan, you must have a Japanese residential address and telephone number. Therefore, because the cycle tourist has no Japanese address or telephone number, they cannot register their bicycle. If they are stopped by police for any reason, they should explain the situation – i.e., that they have no Japan address or phone – and that will be no problem at all.”
Just to make sure, I just called the Tokyo-based Tokyo Bicycle Registration Association (http://www.bouhan-net.com), and they confirmed what the Hokkaido Police told me – officially you can’t do bicycle registration without some form of Japan-issued ID that shows a Japanese address and telephone number. A bike shop will probably happily take 500yen from you and do the registration for you, using your current hotel address…but you are under no obligation to register a bike if you’re not living in Japan.