The Kanagawa Prefectural Police’s new rule will be enforced from next month. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Kanagawa Prefectural Police’s new rule will be enforced from next month.

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A scene from a sobriety checkpoint conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department for electric kickboard users in the JR Shibuya Station area last October. Hopefully the Kanagawa Prefectural Police officers who responded to the call have this sense of crisis management. …… (Photo: Kyodo News)

The revised Road Traffic Law concerning “specified small motorized bicycles” (so-called electric kickboards, etc.), which was passed and enacted by the plenary session of the House of Representatives in April 2022, will go into effect on July 1.

Under the current law, electric kickboards are treated the same as motorized bicycles (hereafter referred to as mopeds) under both the Road Traffic Law and the Road Trucking Vehicle Law. Of course, a license to drive a moped is required, helmets must be worn, and they can only be driven on roadways. However, the revised Road Traffic Law changes the following

(1) Electric kickboards with a maximum speed of 20 km/h or less do not require a license (those under 16 years of age cannot drive). (1) Electric kickboards with a maximum speed of 20 km/h or less do not require a driver’s license.

(2) In addition to (1) above, sidewalks are also permitted for bicycles with a maximum speed of 6 km/h or less. (2) In addition to (1) above, bicycles may ride on sidewalks when the maximum speed is 6 km/h or less. Sidewalks are limited to those separated for bicycles and pedestrians. (Where there is a sign that says “Bicycle sidewalks are permitted,” the bicycle may ride on the sidewalk even if there is no demarcation.)

(3) No license is required, but a license plate and liability insurance are compulsory.

Only those equipped with safety parts such as an alarm, front headlight, maximum speed indicator, license plate, and direction indicator, and those that meet safety standards such as body size, etc., can ride as “specified small mopeds.

Helmets are not mandatory for any of these types of mopeds, but rather an effort is required (i.e., not necessary).

The “speed of 20 km/h or less” and “speed of 6 km/h” above do not mean that a person must drive at or below those speeds, but rather that the electric kickboard’s body is adjusted to prevent it from going faster than those speeds. Incidentally, a speed of 20 km/h is a little faster than that of a bicycle. A speed of 6 km/h is about the speed of a brisk walk.

The use of electric kickboards is growing, especially among young urbanites, and sharing services are expanding nationwide. At first glance, deregulation appears to increase the number of electric kickboard users and expand their means of transportation, but more voices questioned the revised Road Traffic Law. This is because the number of traffic violations and accidents associated with the use of electric kickboards has skyrocketed, raising questions about safety measures.

Based on our experience in covering this issue, drivers who are riding without a license and without a license plate number under these rules are the most likely to cause accidents. How can we identify and crack down on such persons? When we called the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Traffic Consultation and asked them, we received an answer that left us speechless.

Huh? An electric kickboard that can be ridden on the sidewalk is treated as a ‘toy. It’s just like a toy. No safety parts are required. It’s the same as a bicycle. From July 1, you can ‘play’ on the sidewalk.”

The author asked the question three times, but the response was consistent : “Electric kickboards that can be ridden on sidewalks are treated like toys, so they don’t need any safety parts. They don’t need a license plate number, and of course they don’t need insurance. They are not subject to any regulations.

Incidentally, even if a driver does not need a license, he or she faces the same severe penalties as those for driving under the influence of alcohol, for example, five years for drunken driving.

Driving under the influence of alcohol: imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of not more than 1,000,000 yen
Driving under the influence of alcohol: up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 500,000 yen

In addition, driving while fiddling with a smartphone or listening to music with earphones is a “violation of cell phone use, etc.” for which a fine of 12,000 yen must be paid. It is important to keep in mind that even if you can ride on the sidewalk without a license, it does not mean that you are treated as a pedestrian.

Tsuyoshi Shinjo, a.k.a. “Big Boss” of Nippon Hamu, coaching on an electric kickboard in February of last year, his first year in the position. This ease of use is a selling point, but rules must be followed on public roads (Photo: Kyodo News)

Only a few days remain until the enforcement of the revised Road Traffic Law. Do police forces in other prefectures have the same horrible hunch as the Kanagawa Prefectural Police? It is hard to imagine what the future holds for those who are supposed to teach safe driving under such circumstances.

There are also many problematic vendors on the sales side. There are even some electric kickboards that are sold as being able to ride on sidewalks in compliance with the revised Road Traffic Law that are, whether they know it or not, completely out of compliance with the law.

The “no safety parts” rule means they cannot be ridden on public roads, but from July 1, they can be ridden on sidewalks.
They are sold under the slogan, “Since they can only go 6 km/h, they are treated as pedestrians.

These are completely illegal vehicles.

Even if they do not require a license, they are required to have safety parts, liability insurance, and a license plate. When choosing a specific small moped, be sure to check that it complies with the safety standards.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has set up an illegal vehicle reporting counter on April 1, and is asking for information on the sale of vehicles that do not comply with the safety standards for specified small motorized bicycles (electric kickboards, etc.). The report can be made completely anonymously, so if you find an electric kickboard that is out of compliance, please report it as soon as possible.

Part names of specified small motorized bicycles

Differences between the current Road Traffic Law and the revised Road Traffic Law regarding “Specified Small Motorized Bicycles

Only “Specified Small Motorized Bicycles” and “Special Specified Small Motorized Bicycles” whose maximum speed is controlled by a speed suppression device do not require a license for mopeds such as electric kickboards. Both types must be equipped with a maximum speed indicator light, with the green light always on for the “Specified Small Motorized Bicycle” and flashing for the “Special Specified Small Motorized Bicycle.
Striemo S01JT” by Striemo Co., Ltd. was certified as “compliant” under the Performance Verification System for Specified Compact Motorized Bicycles. It is possible to switch between 20 km/h and 6 km/h settings when stopped.
  • Interview and text by Kumiko Kato

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