Penalties for Bicycle Violations: Operational Policy Should Be Clearly Explained to Riders

Due to the continuous occurrence of accidents involving bicycles, the police have decided to review their traffic control methods. It is hoped that so as not to cause confusion on the street, the police will carefully apply the new policy to ensure traffic safety.

The National Police Agency has decided to issue “blue tickets” and impose administrative fines for traffic violations committed by bicyclists aged 16 or older. The agency aims to submit a bill to revise the Road Traffic Law to the ordinary Diet session in 2024.

A blue ticket will be issued for violations such as disregarding traffic signals, failing to stop at stop signs and riding on sidewalks at other than a slow, safe speed. The reason for setting 16 as the minimum age to be subject to blue tickets is said to be because it is the same as the age for obtaining a driver’s license for such vehicles as motorized bicycles with an engine capacity of less than 50cc, meaning that riders can be presumed to have a minimum knowledge of traffic rules.

There are more than 300 accidents a year in which pedestrians are killed or seriously injured when bicycles collide with people. The introduction of administrative fines can be considered a necessary measure to prevent accidents.

Until now, the police have been issuing “red tickets” for traffic violations by bicycles, which are subject to criminal penalties such as criminal fines. However, this system is not suitable for minor violations, and the paperwork burden of writing a red ticket at the scene of an incident is too great.

The blue ticket system is procedurally simpler, and criminal responsibility is waived if the administrative fine is paid. It has already been applied to drivers of cars and motorcycles and is well-recognized by society.

However, in a certain way, it must be difficult for bicycle users to understand how the police use “blue” and “red” tickets according to the type of violation and the degree of danger.

Bicycles are used by many people as a means of transportation. Unlike automobiles and motorcycles, which require a driver’s license, there are few opportunities for bicycle riders to learn traffic rules. There is also the problem of how to verify the identity of those who do not have a driver’s license and are not carrying their My Number identification card at the time of a traffic violation.

The revised Road Traffic Law would also specifically prohibit using a smartphone while riding a bicycle. This revision may provoke debate over whether it would be OK for bicycle delivery people to check maps on their phones. It is essential that the police clarify their operational policy and make users aware of it in an easy-to-understand manner.

Blue ticket issuance will be a major system change for high school students who ride bicycles to and from school, as the blue ticket system will apply to those 16 years of age and older.

Last year, nearly three times as many high school students as elementary and junior high school students were killed or injured in accidents while riding bicycles, but the wearing of helmets has not progressed among high school students. It is hoped that schools will work with the police and bicycle shops to promote the wearing of helmets and to make the rules known to all.

Learning how to ride a bicycle properly will lead to the safety of pedestrians and others, and at the same time protect bicycle riders themselves.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 31, 2023)