Photo/IllutrationA dedicated bicycle path is planned for the lower deck of the Onarutokyo Bridge that links the island of Shikoku and Awajishima island in Hyogo Prefecture. (Tsunetaka Sato)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NARUTO, Tokushima Prefecture--Two prefectures are considering setting up a dedicated cycling path on the Onarutokyo Bridge that offers spectacular views of the famed whirlpools of the Naruto Strait.

The main challenge for Hyogo and Tokushima prefectures is ensuring cycling safety on the 1,629-meter-long bridge, which links the island of Shikoku and Awajishima island in Hyogo Prefecture.

The double-deck bridge opened in June 1985, with an expressway on the upper part. A future railway was planned for the lower part, with the possible expansion of the Shinkansen network to Shikoku in mind.

However, the lower deck is currently used only for the Uzu no Michi walkway, which gives those on foot a variety of views of the whirlpools through glass panels from 45 meters above the water.

This fiscal year, Tokushima and Hyogo prefectures held a study meeting on developing a cycling path on the lower deck as a possible centerpiece of tourism.

Tokushima Prefecture’s initial general account budget for fiscal 2018, which was announced on Feb. 8, included 23 million yen ($214,600) for a study on the bicycle path project.

Using a model of the bridge, the two prefectures will examine how a bicycle path would affect its sturdiness as well as the effects from strong winds.

Various prefectures have set up distinguished cycling routes as a way to promote tourism. One of the most famous is the island-hopping Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway’s bike route, which connects Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture and Imabari in Ehime Prefecture.

Shiga Prefecture has publicized the Biwa Ichi route that enables cyclists to circle Lake Biwako.

In autumn last year, courses that allow cyclists to travel around Minami-Awaji in Hyogo Prefecture, Naruto in Tokushima Prefecture and Higashi-Kagawa in Kagawa Prefecture were set up.

One of the routes, about 120 kilometers long, takes cyclists through the three cities and offers stunning views of the Seto Island Sea.

However, for the Onarutokyo Bridge part of the route, cyclists currently must use a high-speed bus and transport their bicycles by vehicle.