Ehime Prefecture Aiming to Host World Cycling Event in 2027; Highlighting Shimanami Kaido and Safety Measures

Courtesy of the Ehime prefectural government
Cyclists travel on the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido, a popular cycling road among people from both Japan and abroad.

MATSUYAMA — The Setouchi Shimanami Kaido cycling road, which connects Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, and Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, is called a “cyclists’ paradise,” where many tourists visit from both Japan and abroad.

Riding on the road’s popularity, the Ehime prefectural government is aiming to become the first Japanese city to host “Velo-city,” a major international cycling conference, in 2027.

Velo-city brings together researchers, cycling enthusiasts and others from more than 50 countries. During the annual four-day event, about 1,000 to 1,500 participants discuss urban development, tourism promotion and the safe use of bicycles, among other topics. Research presentations, panel discussions and a cycling parade, in which members of the general public can participate, are also held.

Organized by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), the conference dates back to 1980 and has been held in European countries, such as Germany and Austria, as well as in Taiwan, Brazil and other places around the world.

In 2011, the prefectural government proposed its vision for a new cycling culture and has since worked to revitalize local communities through cycling. It launched Cycling Shimanami, an international cycling event on the Shimanami Kaido, in 2014. The scenic course on the road has been selected as one of the seven “best bike routes in the world” by CNN travel. The road now attracts about 300,000 people a year from both Japan and abroad.

The prefectural government has promoted the Shimanami Kaido with a focus placed not only on regional development but also the safe use of bicycles. In July 2013, it enacted an ordinance that encourages cyclists to wear helmets and ride on the left side of the road, among other rules. The prefecture has tried to spread the “Share the Road” concept, in which pedestrians, bicyclists and automobile drivers share the road, with efforts including asking drivers to keep a safe distance from cyclists passing on the side of the road.

The prefectural government intends to bid for hosting the Velo-city conference by presenting its achievements. According to the prefectural government’s bicycle culture promotion division, a booth will be set up during the Velo-city 2024 to be held in Belgium this June in order to showcase the prefecture’s measures. In September, it plans to submit to the ECF its application to host the 2027 edition of the event.

The host city for the 2027 Velo-city is expected to be decided in December after the ECF’s screenings. The prefecture has included ¥10.8 million for its initial budget for fiscal 2024 to fund programs to bid for the conference.

“If we successfully win the bid, the prefecture’s international recognition will increase, and we can expect a rise in the number of visitors from Europe and other regions where riding bicycles is popular,” an official of the prefecture said. “We want to publicize the prefecture’s efforts to the world.”