May be common-sense, may not be, either way I think these are significant to know before hopping on a bicycle in Kyoto or in any city in Japan! And if you missed the first part.
- Try avoiding main roads as they are usually the most crowded; it may be difficult if you are only visiting Kyoto and won’t be able to get to know it well enough to use the side and back streets, but the downtown area is grid-like so if you know where north is, you’ll be fine!
- Do not hold an umbrella, talk/text on the phone, listen to music while riding the bicycle – it can lead to a fine. I know a few months ago, the police started cracking down on riders whom were listening to music while riding their bicycle as it appears it was the main cause of many accidents. The other two are not really enforced from what I’ve seen thus far, and I do not condone such actions!
- If you noticed certain traffic light patterns already, do not go assuming it is the same all throughout Kyoto, or Japan! It is best to wait for the light to turn green.
- Take into consideration that as you go further north in the city of Kyoto, there is an incline making it a little bit tougher to ride than when going south. Once I rode for 1 hour from the northeast part of Kyoto to the southwest part, and then from there to the southeast to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷神社), and finally from there all the way back up north; I must say, it was dreadful! That’s around 10km with an incline, for me at the time, it was considered vigorous and not fun.
- It is illegal to ride your bicycle on the main roads in the downtown area; this includes sidewalks as well as the roads. Policemen are usually on the lookout in this area so it is best to avoid it altogether and if anything simply try researching a path consisting of small back roads prior to leaving the house.
Just be careful! Although the Japanese are known to obey the rules and laws to a T, they actually do not all do!