Manners' Conflicts when Traveling around Lake BiwaSpecial Rules for Bicycles and Cars Needed
Alongside the increasing popularity of "BIWAICHI," or cycling around Lake Biwa, the issue of bicycles and automobiles' coexistence has surfaced. This has become a concern because of the rise in accidents and congestion due to the growing number of BIWAICHI participants, as there are many areas around the lake where bicycles must be ridden side by side with cars. As the number of bicycle tourists is expected to continue increasing, it seems necessary to improve the manners of both cyclists and drivers and to develop special bicycle regulations for Shiga Prefecture.
Number of cyclists doubling
On November 17, a group of British people enjoyed "BIWAICHI." One participant was Simon King who runs a travel agency specializing in trips to Japan. "I could quietly enjoy small villages and the building styles of houses. It is very doable to send tourists from Great Britain," he said contentedly, as he checked the state of accommodations, and other things.
According to the Shiga Prefectural Government, the number of participants of "BIWAICHI" in fiscal 2016 was approximately 72,000, marking a 40 % increase over the 52,000 participants in fiscal 2015. Sightseeing promotion overseas has been strengthened. The goal for fiscal 2020 has been set to 150,000, which is twice the current number. In relation to that goal, the prefectural government office in charge of promoting BIWAICHI said, "If you observe Lake Biwa, you can really feel the increase in the number of cyclists. This will continue increasing steadily to achieve 150,000."
Startled by car horns
This increase, however, has begun to cause friction between bicycles and automobiles.
"Car horns freaked me out during BIWAICHI." Such bad impressions from cycling fans were mentioned to a panel of experts gathered to discuss the prefectural plan to promote BIWAICHI this August. On the other hand, bus operating companies said, "Seen from buses, bicycles are really scary. It's hard to pass them when they ride abreast." Some drivers have also started to express their frustrations caused by the growing number of bicycles on the highways in the prefecture, which had already been congested frequently.
National and prefectural governments have been putting much effort into ensuring traffic safety by taking measures such as painting the edges of roadways with blue arrow-shaped markings to indicate that bicycles will pass. It is, however, financially and spatially difficult to separate cycle paths completely. At present, "We would like to encourage drivers to drive in a bicycle-friendly manner," according to Taizo Mikazuki, governor of Shiga Prefecture.
Some cyclists do not know the rules
There are also strong opinions that it is important to improve cyclists' manners. Organizations including "Wa no Kuni Biwako," a general incorporated association to promote use of bicycles, held a forum to exchange opinions in November, in which discussion was centered around how to handle cyclists unfamiliar with manners and rules. For example, some cyclists ride on the right side of roadways, while others do not slow down on sidewalks.
To achieve successful coexistence of cars and bicycles, a variety of opinions were expressed at the prefectural panel of experts, including "Unique BIWAICHI rules would also serve as a brand," or "It is necessary to carefully secure the understanding of local communities."
Yoshikazu Fujimoto, representative of "Wa no Kuni Biwako" association, indicated that by increasing the number of "cyclists who ride slowly," a wider range of people will come to visit, bringing more opportunities to spend money, which will lead to interaction with local communities. He said, "In order to be accepted by local communities, a big challenge is how to create interaction with local inhabitants." He hopes that building face-to-face relationships will lead to meeting each other halfway.(Translated by Mie Hiuzon, Psyche et l’Amour, Inc.)