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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class: News and Current Events in Japan, Season 1 - Lesson 7, Obligation to Operate Bicycles Safely.
In June 2016, an amendment to the Road Traffic Safety Act redefined bicycles as “vehicles,” rather than “light vehicles,” and strengthened laws to prevent bicycle accidents. In this lesson, we'll learn about this news story.

Lesson focus

In recent times, more and more people in Japan have been traveling by bicycle.
Although each person has a different reason for traveling by bike (including environmental reasons, health concerns, for pleasure, and so on), the first reason has to be that bicycles are the most convenient form of transport.
Although bicycles are treated as “light vehicles” under the Road Traffic Act, no special license or training is required in order to ride a bicycle.
There are no restrictions on age, and just about anyone can ride a bike if they are physically able.
Although bicycles are a familiar sight, in the past few years, accidents caused by bicycles, particularly incidents with pedestrians, have become a social issue.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and the National Police Agency, despite the number of traffic accidents decreasing as a whole, accidents involving a bicycle and a pedestrian have increased by around 50% in the past 10 years, and the number of fatalities has also been increasing.
In consideration of the situation, an amendment to the Road Traffic Act in June 2016 strengthened the obligation to safely operate bicycles, and violators are now subject to severe penalties.
For example, if somebody repeatedly performs dangerous actions, such as cycling on the sidewalk or cycling while using a smartphone, they must attend a safety course.
Of course, operating a bicycle while intoxicated is also an offense.
Persons aged 14 years and over are also subject to the application of this law, and persons that do not take a safety course are subject to a fine of no greater than JPY 50,000.
In the 12 month period leading up to June 2016, approximately 15,000 people have been caught violating the law, and about half of these cases involved ignoring traffic lights.
In addition, most of the perpetrators have been in their 20s, accounting for 25% of the total.
Even though they are a simple means of transportation, bicycles are once again recognized as "vehicles," rather than "light vehicles."


Those are the key facts about the obligation to operate bicycles safely.
If you want to find the related Japanese keywords, make sure to check out the lesson notes.
Okay, that’s all for this lesson. Thank you for listening everyone, and keep listening for more of the most talked about news stories in Japan!