Walk / Don't Walk

Walking around New York's gridded streets, which enforce a strictly orthogonal circulation, I spent an awful lot of time waiting to cross the street at busy junctions. If the opportunity arose, I'd make like a local (or a Londoner) and dart across oncoming traffic in full violation of an upheld neon red palm.

Jaywalking in NYC...

Here in Tokyo, road crossing rules are reinforced by a strong law-abiding culture to the extent that they feel impossible to defy without making an open statement about foreign belligerence. If the red man is showing the pavement edge fills up with patient pedestrians at clear and busy roads alike, like a crowd spread across the bank of a slow moving river, with none willing to jump in and splash across. Consequently I am spending inordinate amounts of time sweltering at crossings (Tokyo in July is averaging 34°C, edging just two degrees over NYC, but what a difference those two little degrees makes). And the lights seem to take an age to change.

Waiting at the lights in Tokyo...

It's easier to understand now why the Shibuya Crossing - yes, really just a pedestrian crossing, albeit a big one - is such an iconic spectacle. It's not just the agility of crossers avoiding each other as they walk headlong towards one another; it's the exact stop / release. The choreography is clean and precise, with no messy jaywalkers ruining the performance: now we walk, now we stop.

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