How (not) to park your bike in Japan!
At first glance, this topic sounds rather straightforward – until it is not. In Japan leaving your bike on the side of the street or in front of a store can get you in quite some trouble. So if you see a sign reading 駐輪禁止, telling you that parking your bike is prohibited, you better look for another spot. You can use bicycle parking lots, called 駐輪所, to safely park your bike. These lots will usually lock the bicycles in individually and charge hourly fees or flat rate prices.
Park your bike
If you found a parking lot push your bike up the rack of an open spot until you hear a clicking sound. Your bike should then be secured at its’ front wheel. There should also be a number somewhere indicating your parking spot, which you will need when paying for the time of use.
Pay for your parking time
Parking lots are equipped with payment machines. When you want to get your bike out, enter the number of your parking space and pay the displayed amount. The price is always rounded up. So, if you have an hourly pricing system and put your bike there for one hour and two minutes you will pay for 2 hours. Once payment is completed, your bike will be unlocked automatically.
Remove bike from racks
Pull your bike out of the rack and take care not to lock it in again by accident.
Bicycle Parking Lot system
There are two types of parking lots: short-term and long-term lots.
- Short-term lots
- You can recognize short term lots by a sign saying 一時利用 or 当日利用 in Japanese. At these lots prices are set for fixed time intervals, such as per hour.
- Long-term parking lots
- At a 定期利用, you have to rent a spot for at least one month. Contracts for one year are also common. These long-term parking lots are popular with commuters because they offer discounts and one does not have to pay after every single use. To be able to contract you must meet a few conditions, for example living more than a certain distance away from the parking lot. These regulations vary, so I would recommend that you check out conditions and prices at the specific lot directly.
Can I park my bike without using a parking lot?
If you do not use a bicycle parking lot, or if you park your bike in the lot but don’t lock it in, there is a chance it might get towed. Kyoto is especially famous for rigorous bike. To save yourself unwanted trouble, I can only recommend to follow the rules.
Watch out especially near city centers and train stations and avoid parking your bike in areas where cycling itself isn’t allowed. Remember to look around for signs on the side of the street reading 駐輪禁止 to determine whether you should park you bike somewhere else.
Still, there are some places where it is allowed to park your bike free of charge without the threat of being towed. Most convenience stores will have some space to put your bike. Also, places away from big crossings or in more rural areas are more permissive of free bicycle parking. In these cases, you can just lock your bike to the railing on the sidewalk.
Still, I would recommend to not leave your bike right in front of a store as this is considered rude and might cause an inconvenience to customers trying to enter or leave the store.
What happens if my bike gets towed?
If your bike is getting towed, it is usually thrown on a truck and run of to some plot at the outskirts of town. To get it back, you will need to pay a fine.
The fee and the time a plot will store your bike varies by area, but expect at least 2000 Yen for a normal bicycle and a time window of about 30 days for you to pick it up. Also, many plots won’t be open on weekends and late, so if you are working you might have trouble to find the time to retrieve your bike.
Information on parking
Now you know all about parking, except where to find the closest parking lot. To avoid running around for a good parking spot, try an interactive map showing you the closest bicycle lots in the area. Since it is only in Japanese it might be a little difficult to navigate, but the overall structure is very straightforward. Just click on a black marker on the map and select「詳細を見る」(see details), and on the next screen you can check opening hours and prices.
With a bike and a working lamp you are now fully prepared to discover the city by bike!