Japan considers cabinet level bicycle ministry

A non-partisan caucus of legislators in the Japanese Diet (Kokkan) are moving forward on the creation of a Ministry of Bicycle Promotion (自転車担当相設置を – Jitensha Tanto Sho).

Bicycle policy in Japan is determined by multiple agencies. The police establish the rules of the road, while the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism governs infrastructure, and the National Public Safety Commission publishes yet another set of rules for bicycles. Bicycle users report confusing and often contradictory laws. The proposed Bicycle Ministry would bring Japan’s disparate efforts to promote and improve cycling under a single cabinet level executive office.

This legislative working group to promote bicycles is chaired by 68-year-old Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, an avid long-distance road cyclist. The draft proposal says the Minister of Bicycles should be a cyclist, and members of the working group are pushing Tanigaki to take the proposed post.

The draft proposal calls on the government to promote cycling as an effective means of transportation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The new ministry, if accepted, would review and simplify existing traffic laws as they related to bicycling, and would be tasked with developing bicycle infrastructure such as cycle tracks and bicycle parking.

The working group will present their proposal to the government on Monday, October 28.

Via Aussie ex-pat Byron Kidd at Tokyo By Bike, who astutely notes the political culture of Japan encourages a cynical wait-and-see attitude and reminds readers: “Whatever eventuates you can rest assured that public consultation will never feature in the decision making process and that our voices will go unheard.”

The Japanese have a parliamentary form of government. The Cabinet of Japan forms the executive. The head of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister, is appointed by Japan’s bicameral legislative branch, the Kokkan. The members of the cabinet are, in turn, appointed by the Prime Minister. By convention, English speakers usually call Japan’s parliament the “Diet,” which is what we also call the old German legislative assemblies that they inherited from the Romans. Why German? Because of the heavy Prussian influence during the Meiji era, when Japan established its first modern constitution.

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