2-step road verification for mopeds in Japan
2-step (or "hook") turn regulation for mopeds is not unique to Japan. The same rule is apparently set in Australia, Taiwan, and some places in Europe. We've been asked about this rule many times, therefore we decided to explain it here.
Japanese city streets are pretty busy. Traffic runs on the left side and many people use scooters to get around towns. Bicycles also ride on the streets, along with other vehicles. Even though people are generally patient and careful drivers, accidents involving bicycles and mopeds are pretty common (most friends who are commuting by bicycles have been hit by a car before - it happened to me as well, luckily no big damage). That's why the regulation of the 2-step turn came in place in the 60s.
Ever seen this traffic sign before? Whether they've placed it in front of a crossroad or not, all bicycles and mopeds are obliged to obey this general rule for all two lane or greater roads:
It's very simple: To turn right, bicycles and mopeds are obliged to must stick to the left side of the lane and enter the intersection together with the flow of traffic.They are supposed to stop in front of the queued traffic and wait until the light for that side turns green (or blue). At that point, the bicycle or moped can drive straight and reach the desired direction:
I personally think that the 2-step turning maneuver is more dangerous than just following the traffic and turning right from another lane. Japanese traffic department obviously sees it as potential danger as well, that's why they set up side areas for performing the hook-turn (but you can't find those on every intersection):
While I have been stopped by police before for disobeying the 2-step turn rule on
my Tomos moped (before I upgraded to a motorcycle), I have never been penalized for it. I was luckily stopped by policemen on bikes, who are generally relaxed and nice, therefore it was not difficult to talk my way out of a ticket. They agreed with me that 2-step turn is confusing, dangerous, and often just doesn't work. Not saying anyone should disobey the rules, just stating I'm happy I don't have to worry about this on a motorcycle anymore...
Drive safely and always be careful at intersections in life. There are a few ways to take a turn, choose the appropriate one for the occasion!