Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
There have been periodic stories over the years of accidents involving cars, bicycles, and slow-moving, elderly pedestrians occurring at street level railroad crossings due to insufficient time to safely cross the tracks between the time that the warning bell sounds and the gates come down. With that in mind, over the years I have observed with increasing concern a growing number of comparable incidents in my neighborhood - a perfectly normal, typical urban neighborhood - of elderly people walking slowly across the pedestrian crossing at street corners, knowing they would not be able to reach the other side before the light turned red. I admire them that they can still get around independently at their age, but still feel somewhat annoyed by the danger they represent to themselves and to others, all the while captivated by the dramatic spectacle of it: will the light turn red before they reach the mid-way point?; will they livelong enough to reach the other side safely?; will the facing motorists see them and patiently wait for a clear path?; will the seniors be able to negotiate the slight 5 cm rise in the curb at the far sidewalk without stumbling? It’s like watching a race of garden snails, and I’m not sure if my fascination betrays a wholesome concern for society or a depraved voyeur fetish.
Considering Japan’s aging population, I think there may come a time - sooner rather than later - when common sense must force whoever has authority in the matter to re-program traffic and pedestrian lights nationwide to give people more time to safely cross streets.