Shake off the jet-lag and travel around the city in one of the most beautiful ways to experience it: by bicycle! Kyoto is often referred to as a very bike-friendly city, because the center of the city is both relatively flat, and with its straight, grid-like streets, easy to navigate on a bicycle. Because of this, you’ll see local riders of all ages and types, from elementary schoolers, to working adults in suits, to elderly men and women doing errands. Taking a break from public transit and traversing the city by bicycle is a great way to discover even more of its hidden pockets.
Before you hop on your bike and head off to explore Kyoto, it’s a good idea to be aware of a few of the ground rules in the city:
Where to ride
In Japan, cars drive on the left side of the street. Because bicycles are considered “vehicles,” they’re required to drive on the left side, too. Fortunately, this can make things simpler: just stick to the flow of traffic as you ride and make turns.
Kyoto’s streets are generally very bike-friendly, but there are some places without bike lanes or adequate space for bicycles in the street. Look out for pictographic signs that indicate where both bikes and pedestrians are welcome on sidewalks (just be ready to slow down and dismount as needed). For a guide to some other safety rules about bike-riding in Kyoto, this PDF offers a good overview.
As for where you take your bike after that, your options are limitless! Glide along the central Kamo-gawa River, or take a back street tour of Kyoto with an English-speaking guide. Cycling is also a wonderful way to explore the Arashiyama area. How far you take your bike is up to you!
Where to park
The answer to this one may sound obvious, but be sure to park your bike in a bicycle parking lot. There are a few big lots in the center of the city, and many popular temples also have designated bike parking areas for convenience if you’re temple-hopping on two wheels.
(Just be careful not to leave your bike on the street–if it’s impounded, you’ll have to look for a paper left at the site where you left your bike, and be required to pay 2,300 yen… think of all the delicious bowls of ramen and matcha confections you could enjoy instead!)
When you’re ready to plan your route, see here for Kyoto shrines and temples you might want to visit by bicycle, and see this page for a list of Kyoto museums. No matter where you decide to pedal, ride safe, and you’re sure to discover a whole new side of Kyoto on your own path!