Warning: Riding season is here, along with Japanese police mousetraps
The riding season is officially on > according to the Japanese traffic police department: They started placing mousetraps on strategic positions, targeting bikers, earning seasonal guaranteed pocket-money.
What is a Japanese police "mousetrap" (ネズミ捕り, nezumi-tori)?
A friend has taught me this Japanese word first time I mentioned getting a bike. In Japan, "nezumi-tori" stands for police ambush on strategic positions, targeting all types of drivers, collecting (primarily over-speeding) fines. This traffic rule violation crackdown is designed in a way to collect as much penalty Yen as possible, and no matter how obedient driver the drivers are, there's a high probability of getting penalized for something. Falling into their well designed mousetrap can for example look like this:
The video displays a crackdown on drivers that disobey the mandatory full stop at a pedestrian crossing (in front of the stop sign). Police car is hiding on the side road, and as soon as an unsuspecting driver slowly rolls across the zebra without entirely stopping, policemen chase the car to add a new ticket to their successful workday.
Most common nezumi-tori violation checks are connected to speed.
Policemen set their base along roads, where temptation for revving is a little stronger is high. Very high and dangerous in case of this rider:
On a city road, over-speeding nezumi-tori encounters look like this:
As you can notice, the quantity is more important than quality in this anti traffic violation campaign, and policemen exercise utterly dangerous methods to collect over-speeding penalties, on a road where practically everyone drives faster than the limit. The following video nicely displays a mousetrap base:
Nezumi-tori campaigns are most often carried out on the weekends, especially when they target bikers.
Most often, policemen would hide in an unsuspected area and prey on those who for example don't perform a full stop at the stop sign or cross the yellow line while changing the lane.
A common nezumi-tori place is right in front of Ueno station, where mistaking the lane is common and would result in a very long detour. That's why drivers often take a risk and cross the yellow line. In a recent conversation with a policeman stationed there, he shared that he doesn't enjoy his job at this problematic spot. Instead of improving the infrastructure (at least putting some signs a bit earlier), the police cracks down on clumsy violators, causing even clumsier road circumstances (stopping traffic and keeping cars on the side like this is also dangerous, especially for cyclists on this road):
The purpose of this post is not criticizing policemen doing their job, nor excusing reckless driving. Purely informatively, we'd like to warn you to take extra precaution while riding in Japan these days, especially on weekends.
We've both fallen into traps last year (driving cars though): Kazuto crossed the yellow line at a very tricky nezumi-tori area (large and complicated crossing with a few closed lanes due to construction), and I was caught speeding on an empty country road in Fukushima in the night. We paid very expensive penalty fees, and have no one to blame but ourselves. "Shoganai", it can't be helped, all we can do is pay more attention next time and avoid such situations/violations.
Have a lovely riding season, and keep in mind that policemen are desperately waiting for you were you'd least expect them!