13:43 JST, October 17, 2022
KYOTO — In Japan and around the world, Kyoto is seen as the quintessential must-experience travel destination. With individual visitors welcomed back to Japan after the end of pandemic-related restrictions, the ancient capital is sure to be buzzing once again.
For first-time and repeat visitors, Kyoto’s well-developed mass transit system gets people to and from the sights they want to see. If you’re looking to avoid the throngs of tourists, however, renting a bicycle can help make a visit less hectic. Plus, it’s an eco-friendly way to travel.
Kyoto is surrounded by mountains, but many of the popular tourist spots are in the mainly flat central area, making it easy for bicyclists to navigate.
Since 2017, the city has been authorizing bicycle rental businesses that meet requirements such as being able to communicate in English and having bicycle insurance. As of the end of June 2022, 19 operators of 42 bicycle rental stores have been authorized.
Some stores offer a wide range of bicycle models to meet various needs. At J-Cycle in Shimogyo Ward, there are 100 bicycles in six major categories, such as sports bikes, folding bicycles, and bicycles for children. Prices start from ¥800 for use from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The shop also offers child and baby seats that can be attached to the front or rear of a bicycle.
Bicycles make it easier to get around, especially during busy tourist seasons when the city is prone to traffic jams, said J-Cycle’s store manager, Satoshi Kitamado.
The shop suggests several cycling routes depending on how long bikers want to pedal around town. Kitamado personally recommends a 30-kilometer course that takes about 3 hours 30 minutes to complete. The course takes in the old district of Gion, temples such as silver Ginkakuji and golden Kinkakuji, and the Arashiyama area that is blessed with nature.
Of course, tourists also need to abide by the rules of the road, such as cycling on the left and not riding on sidewalks. Bicycle traffic is prohibited in some areas depending on the time of day. Bicycle parking on streets is prohibited in most areas of the city, so you must park the bike at bicycle parking lots located within tourist sites or designated spots in the city.
J-Cycle provides renters with customized maps showing the locations of bicycle parking lots and the parking fees, if any. For renters who don’t understand Japanese, store staff give instructions in English.
“We want all tourists to feel safe using our bikes,” Kitamado said.
Visitors interested in touring the city by bicycle can get more information on the Kyoto City Official Travel Guide website (https://kyoto.travel/en/info/transportation/bike.html ),which provides information on bicycle rules, rental bicycle stores, and bicycle parking lots.