Rental bicycles are a great way to get around and experience sights that are not visible from trains and cars. This article discusses how to rent bicycles in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, and the rules to follow when riding them.
Renting a Bicycle
The easiest way to rent a bicycle is to go to rental bicycle shops. It's better if you make an advance reservation, but you can also just drop by and pick one up if there’s any available.
These bicycles generally need to be returned to the place that they were rented from. However, some shops have multiple branches (or terminals) that you can return your bicycle to. Some stores may require ID (such as a passport) and/or deposits at the time of rental.
City Bike Shares
There are also “share cycle” and “community cycle” programs that are similar to rental bicycles in the sense that they let anyone within a certain area borrow a bicycle. There are multiple locations within each designated area from which you can rent and return bicycles in your own time.
Most services require that you make reservations online and pick up the bicycles using the passwords that are issued. The convenience of being able to return them at any of the locations is an appeal. Most services accept credit card payment, although online registration is required.
Rental Bicycles and City Bike Shares in Major Cities
Tokyo: Tokyo Bicycle Sharing
This is a shared bicycle program available in Tokyo that covers nine Tokyo wards (Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, Shinjuku, Bunkyo, Koto, Shinagawa, Ota, and Shibuya). There are 5,600 bicycles* that can be rented from and returned to 450 ports* in the nine wards. The One Day Pass plan is recommended for people planning to go to multiple locations, and the One Trip Membership plan for those who wish to use a bike for one short trip. Both require online membership plan registration on a smartphone or computer.
*As of the end of March, 2018
◆One Trip Membership plan (valid for 24 hours)
Fee: 150 JPY/first 30 minutes of each trip
(100 JPY for each additional 30 minutes)
◆One Day Pass (valid until 11:59 pm on the day of purchase)
【When purchased in person from a counter】Fee: 1,500 JPY/day + 500 JPY to issue a dedicated card
【When purchased from a machine】Fee: 1,500 JPY/day
This is a shared bicycle service available in Osaka. There are two membership choices: the Analog Membership, which grants you access to 26-inch city bicycles with six speed gears and 20-inch Mini Velo bikes with six speed gears, and the Smart Membership that lets you rent electric bicycles. The number of hubs and the pricing differs for each membership type.
◆Analog Membership (Number of hubs: 5)
How to register: Fill in the registration form at a port (requires cash (deposit of 1,000 JPY + use fee) and ID)
Rental fee: 200 JPY/hour for one-time use; 1,000 JPY/12 hours for 12-hour rental
◆Smart Membership (Number of hubs: 16)
How to register: Online registration (requires a credit card and a cellphone with e-mail access)
Rental fee: One-time use - 150 JPY (excl. tax) for first 30 minutes and 100 JPY for each additional 30 minutes)
One-day use - 1,389 JPY (excl. tax) for one day (till 11:59 pm)
Kyoto: Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (KCTP)
KCTP has two terminals near Kyoto Station, as well as in the Kinkaku-ji and Fushimi areas. They offer a variety of bicycle types, including city bicycles, Mini Velos, mountain bikes, and children's bicycles. Reservations can be made up to three days in advance on the official homepage. The pick-up and return points can be selected from various terminals.
There is an additional 400 JPY charge when returning your bicycle to a location other than the pick-up point. Bikes picked up at the Kyoto Station terminal, Kyoto Station Hachijo Gate terminal, and Kinkaku-ji terminal can be left at Arashiyama Kanko Parking Lot for 800 JPY.
Rental fee: 1,000 JPY/day and up (depending on the type of bicycle)
Cycling Etiquette in Japan
Ride on the Road and to the Left
Bicycles are considered to be "light motor-less vehicles", so they should be ridden on the road and not the sidewalk. They can also be ridden on pedestrian walkways along roads, except when there are double white lines indicating that the walkway is for pedestrians only. They should be ridden on the left both on roads and on pedestrian walkways. When there are bicycle lanes as pictured below, follow the indicated directions.
Riders who are younger than 13 or 70 years and older, as well as people with disabilities, may ride on sidewalks. However, they cannot do so when there is a "no bicycles" sign, pictured below, and when it is difficult to pass on the left due to roadwork or parked vehicles.
Pedestrians have priority on sidewalks, so if you are riding on a sidewalk, ride slowly on the side closest to the road. Be sure to stop when you are in the way of a pedestrian and to get off and push the bicycle when there is a lot of people.
Observe Traffic Lights
Needless to say, you cannot ignore any traffic lights. If there is a light specifically for pedestrians and bicyclists, as pictured below, follow it when crossing the street. Even if there is no light, be sure to stop at crossings. When entering a wide road from a narrower one, go slowly and make sure it is safe to do so.
Other Rules to Consider
As with cars, bicycles must not be ridden when under the influence of alcohol. It is also not acceptable for two people to be on a bicycle, or to ride bicycles side by side. It is prohibited to use cellphones or headphones while on a bicycle, as it distracts riders from their surroundings. Using an umbrella while riding can restrict visibility or affect one's balance, so wear rain gear when riding in the rain. Lights must be turned on when riding in the dark so that others can see you.
If you are riding on a bicycle during the hot summer, be sure to hydrate yourself frequently. In the winter, gloves and other means of keeping you warm can make riding much more pleasant.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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