I got an email response from a good friend I met through blogging. She wrote a post about biking to work on which I left a comment. That started a whole email discussion about why I don’t ride a bike around these parts.
After reading my email she responded by saying…”you should totally blog about this, it’s fascinating”.
I have to warn you-a part of this post may seem a bit discriminatory. I assure you that is not my intention. I’m a writer. I write it like I see it. If writers tried to be politically correct about everything then they wouldn’t write honestly.
So, a little about why I don’t ride a bike around these parts…..
We have mirrors in some places like- the bigger roads. Big round convex mirrors that help folks see what’s coming around the corner.
However, we live in the countryside- lots of tiny side roads that can barely fit even one car. Those have no mirrors and those are the roads people come shooting out of at speeds far beyond what someone with commonsense would consider safe.
Sometimes they stop. Sometimes they don’t.
Many times they come to a screeching halt so if you happened to be passing in front of them, or almost in front, you’d suffer from shock thinking you were about to be hit. You might suffer cuts and abrasions because you jumped out of the way or flew off your bike not knowing if they were going to stop.
As a matter of fact you can’t even really be sure a driver will stop at a stop sign.
It’s a tricky game around here.
From what I have observed first-hand the general “rule ” for red lights seems to be- you have 10 seconds after it turns red to go thru it. Not legal but it’s normal for people to race right thru the red after it has already turned red.
I have no idea where the cops are.
Like I said- I wish it was safer here. I wish that motorists would have common sense and not be so selfish, thinking of only themselves, and not the safety of the general community around them.
We live on a road that is a “2-way” but– only one car can fit on at a time. It’s a narrow little lane actually.
The oddest thing- people can’t seem to ” back up” very well here so they race up or down it because, again, the rule is whoever is more than halfway down or up doesn’t have to back up.
My husband was coming up one day and another driver had just entered the road so she had to back up. She literally tried for 10 minutes and could not back her car up straight enough to avoid falling down the hill. It was only a few feet that she had to back up. There she went…slowly back, cranking her wheel all the way to the right and causing her tires to veer dangerously close to the drop-off that would have sent her plummeting into Mrs. K’s house. We could see her inside the car, faced contorted, feverishly trying to get her car to do what she wanted.
When we saw that she was crying….my husband got out of our car and backed her car up.
This is actually a normal thing because I can see it right out my kitchen window. Drivers that can’t even back up a car. Women drivers, they seem to have the issues with driving. Why? I don’t know. But this is what I see.
When I’m walking on our narrow little lane and I see a car come roaring towards me I literally jump in the bushes because there is literally only about a foot of space between me and a car. Less if it’s a truck.
And, they are flying….as I said, no one wants to have to back-up.
I used to yell at people to slow down but no one cares about some crazy foreign lady screaming at them.
In the hot months women wear huge floppy hats with brims that come down to their shoulders and hang dangerously low over their eyes obscuring vision. They don’t take them off when they drive. My husband said that he can not believe that this is allowed- driving with clothing that obscures vision. You read about accidents in the local paper where people have been hurt because of things like this.
When I see these floppy-hat clad women barreling down the road-I get out of the way.
The bottom of our road has been missing the mirror for over a year- typhoon blew it off. We found out it isn’t the government’s obligation to put it back. Some of the mirrors are purchased by neighborhood community groups.
Here is how it works- neighborhoods are divided up into sections / groups. Each group elects a leader. The members of each group pay a ” nenkaihi” or a group fee / membership fee that is collected twice a year- over $100 for us.
This is not a government activity it is part of the old ” tribal” ways and still practiced in the small country towns.
What each group does with their money is up to them. One thing our group did was put a mirror at the top of our road but the bottom is governed by a different group. Hence no mirror. One group does not tell the other group what to do with their money.
All that to say- mirrors on tiny roads are not a priority here.
The roads that I would be on most of the time are narrow. So narrow that there is no shoulder. Some of the roads go alongside the river. There is no guardrail to keep anyone from plunging down the over 100 foot embankment. I can’t even imagine trying to stay on the road while a huge dump-truck roars past me.
Vehicles generally do not slow down for bikers or pedestrians. Not around here. My husband does-thankfully.
So, taking into consideration that I haven’t been on a bike since I was a child and the fact that there are so many dangers I’d face I think that I’d rather walk or take public transportation.
Too bad because I really wanted to get a bike when we moved here. I’m not saying that riding a bike isn’t safe in Japan. I know many that live here and bike and do just fine.
What I am saying is that in our area it isn’t the wisest choice. I know a few people that have been hit while riding a bike in Japan and…I don’t really know that many people. A few weeks ago a 40 year old man in our neighborhood was hit and killed.
Interestingly I read several articles about bike accidents and fatalities in Japan before I wrote this article. I had to laugh because the articles were so biased towards the cyclists. I read through the comments and agreed with most of them. The problem is not all about “reckless cyclists” it is a failure to provide a safe environment for people riding bikes.
A comment left by bloneintokyo on one of the articles:
“58 percent of the 790 respondents said they cannot abide by the traffic rules while cycling because of bad traffic conditions.”
If they are talking about the difficulty of riding in the road, then this is true. There are spots where it is positively dangerous for cyclists to be in the road because there’s too much traffic and just no space for cyclists to ride alongside. I nearly get sideswiped about every week, and It can be really scary. In those cases I can’t really blame cyclists for wanting to be on the sidewalks at least some of the time. Police should be taking this particular violation on a case by case basis, at least until there is better infrastructure for cyclists.”
I guess this summer I’ll be spending a lot of time at home. My MRI showed torn but not severed ligaments. There is also a chip in the bone. Thankfully I won’t need surgery. The doc fit me with a nifty knee brace that I have to wear for two months and along with rest and ice, I should heal up by the beginning of October.
I did want to spend more time on my writing……