Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
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 an increasing number of comparable incidents in my neighborhood - a perfectly normal and typical urban neighborhood - of elderly people walking slowly across the pedestrian crossing at street corners, and I knew 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. I see the pedestrian light turn red with the people still in the middle of the road. Facing motorists see them and patiently wait. When the seniors finally do reach the other curbside they stop and momentarily stare at the slight rise of the curb, preparing to lift their feet and step up off the street and back onto the opposite sidewalk. No accidents have occurred, but watching them is a whole drama unto itself.
Considering Japan’s aging population, I think there may come a time - sooner rather than later - when common sense must force the Transportation Ministry, or whoever has authority in the matter, to re-program traffic and pedestrian lights nationwide to give people more time to safely cross streets. Think about it.