Photo/IllutrationParticipants of the Cycling Shimanami 2016 event in October ride through the Kurushima Kaikyo-ohashi bridge in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

IMABARI, Ehime Prefecture--City officials here are bracing for even more cyclists to roll in from overseas following the latest accolades for the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway’s bike route.

The course, which connects Imabari and Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture, was named one of the world’s 50 most appealing cycling routes by Lonely Planet’s “Epic Bike Rides of the World.”

The 328-page “Epic Bike Rides of the World” was released in summer by the Melbourne-based travel book publisher, which has a large share in English-language guide book market, Imabari officials said.

Popular cycling routes in 30 countries are featured in the handbook. The Shimanami Kaido was the only Japanese course selected.

The route appears over four pages. The section includes an essay about a trip on a road bike starting from Onomichi and continuing on the island-hopping road-and-bridge network, as well as maps and five color photos.

The guide book also offers fun cycling ideas in Japan, including cycling on autumn leave-covered paths in Kyoto and city biking in Tokyo.

Overseas media in recent years have widely reported the Shimanami Kaido as a world-class cycling course. In 2014, CNN selected it as one of the world’s seven most incredible bike routes in its travel information website.

A rising number of tourists visiting Japan for cycling purposes has increased.

Imabari city officials set up about 180 guideboards at 500-meter intervals on the route on Oshima, Hakatajima and Omishima islands to assist the rising number of cyclists using the Shimanami Kaido.

The guideboards show the distance from the Michi no Eki roadside stations and other information in Japanese and English.

Instructions are also provided to cyclists on their first visit to the islands on how to contact fire, police and other authorities in the event of unexpected trouble.

Similar guideboards have already been set up on Innoshima and Mukaishima islands and other spots on the Hiroshima side, officials said.