• Japan In Focus

Ehime: Bike Lane Widened to Revive Popular Cycling Course

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Widened bike path in Imabari, Ehime

Bike paths are being widened on the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road, a place many consider sacred for cyclists.

A part of the course that is located in Ehime Prefecture has been widened to about a meter, doubling its width.

The number of cyclists had dropped sharply in the early months of the coronavirus outbreak, but now that cycling is in the spotlight as a way to avoid crowds, the locals are hoping that having the bike lanes widened will help to revive the holy sites of cycling.

“I like being able to ride at my own pace without worrying about cars coming from behind,” said a 35-year-old man from Mie Prefecture who was enjoying cycling on a newly widened bike lane on Oshima island in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.

Most of the bike lanes on the Shimanami Kaido are 0.5 meters wide. And in some cases on holidays, cyclists would line up and cause a bit of a traffic jam.

According to police, in the five years between 2015 and 2019, there were a total of 108 bicycle accidents on the islands where the Shimanami Kaido course passes, with one person killed and 108 people injured.

In September 2018, there was an accident involving four bikes and two people suffered minor injuries. Then in October 2019, a foreign woman was seriously injured when she was struck by a car.

The Ehime prefectural government plans to widen the width of about 6.7 kilometers of the course to over a meter and complete the safety measures for the entire 30 kilometers of the Ehime side by the end of fiscal 2021. The Hiroshima prefectural government is also working on the remaining portion of the road, planning to complete about two kilometers of it by the end of fiscal 2021. It plans to widen the bike lane to 1.5 meters from around 0.5 meters.

Officials from both prefectures emphasize that if there is more room to ride, cyclists would be able enjoy cycling more safely and securely, including the prevention of spreading the coronavirus. They hope to promote their respective measures and attract cyclists back to the area.

Courtesy of Ehime prefectural Imabari Public Works Office
The bike path in 2015 before widening