‘Blue Tickets’ for Cycling Violations: Establish System to Improve Bicyclists’ Manners

Bicycles are a popular and easy-to-use form of transport, but they and their riders are often involved in serious accidents. It is vital to raise awareness regarding the optimal way to operate bicycles, while cracking down on traffic violations.

The National Police Agency is considering the introduction of a system to impose fines for bicycle-related violations. Under this system, a so-called blue ticket would be issued for minor violations to encourage awareness of rule infractions, and criminal penalties would not be imposed if a fine is paid.

A blue-ticket system — or traffic violation notification system — is already in place for automobile- and motorcycle-related infractions. An expert study panel has been established with a view to having this system apply to cyclists, too. As this is an issue that affects many people, it is hoped that related matters will be discussed from a multifaceted perspective.

The percentage of bicycle accidents among all traffic accidents continues to increase annually, and last year reached 23%. Accidents involving collisions between cyclists and pedestrians on sidewalks and elsewhere have been particularly conspicuous. The number of cases in which pavement walkers have suffered serious injuries, or, in some cases, death, has recently exceeded 300 a year.

There is no end to accidents involving cyclists who ride while using a mobile phone. In addition, recent improvements in bicycle performance have made it easier to travel at higher speeds. The popularity of electrically assisted bicycles has made them heavier. If a collision occurs between an electrically assisted bicycle and a pedestrian, the damage tends to be much greater.

The NPA has been stepping up the issuance of “red tickets” — which are subject to criminal penalties — for cyclists who commit serious traffic violations. In addition to that, the idea to closely monitor even minor violations and nip accidents in the bud is understandable. Such an approach is expected to have a deterrent effect.

However, questions have arisen regarding which violations should be focused on most intensively.

Under the Road Traffic Law, bicycles are classified as light vehicles, so driving while under the influence of alcohol is prohibited, among a wide variety of other violations.

In light of the substantial number of cyclists in the nation, it is important to clearly specify concrete examples of violations in advance for which blue tickets will be issued so recipients do not feel that they are being arbitrarily penalized.

The age limit for the imposition of fines has become a major point of contention. Children also ride bicycles. For violations involving elementary and junior high school students, it would be advisable to introduce a system to caution parents or guardians, rather than imposing fines on these students.

Cyclists are not required to hold a driver’s license, so various issues — including how to verify the identity of violators — need to be considered.

In principle, bicycles must run on the road, but the traffic rules are complicated, with an exception allowing bicycles to run on sidewalks provided they do not obstruct pedestrian traffic. However, there are few opportunities to learn how to ride properly, and many individuals may not be familiar with such rules.

It is hoped that the police and bicycle sales outlets will strive to make the rules well known to the public. It is also necessary to promote the development of dedicated bicycle lanes so cyclists can ride safely.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 27, 2023)