Shared Lights

And now, for the second segment of things that make you stop, stare, and get the creativity waterwheel churning.

Well, this one is stop and stare, anyway.  It doesn’t generate a great deal of creativity.  Not unless you wind up in hospital, and as a result suddenly have a lot more time to get creative.  I doubt you’d feel up to it for a while, though.  Not after being smashed into by an unconcernedly rolling along car as it turns while you’re traversing a pedestrian crossing in Japan.  The cause of this metaphorical, but nonetheless very unfortunate accident is…

Shared Traffic Lights

I’m not sure if this is the case in other countries, but where I come from it’s natural for pedestrians to have their own light.  The chance to walk without being too obviously threatened by the much larger, much faster, and far more deadly inhabitants they share the roads with.  But when I arrived in Japan, it didn’t take me long to realise that pedestrians (and cyclists) are not given that opportunity here.  And I was gob smacked.  I was furious.  I was indignant.  I was not happy at all.

At first I thought it was just the drivers – that most didn’t care to be hindered by pedestrian lights and kept on turning no matter who or what was in the middle of the crossing.  It took me months to realise they actually have a green light to turn into the crossing at the same time pedestrians have a green light to cross it.  I’ve only come up with one explanation for what seems to me a very dangerous set up:  there’s so much traffic and so many cars in Japan that they can’t afford stop traffic for those without motor vehicles.  If anyone knows the actual reason for these shared lights, or knows of anywhere else that suffers the same situation, I’d be interested to hear about it.

I suppose I lied, when I said shared lights don’t inspire creativity.  It can be quite tense, when you’re in the middle of a crossing and suddenly a bus looms without any indication it means to slow.  I’ve only been side-swiped on my bike once (and that was at a T-intersection, not a crossing, and thankfully the car was going very slowly – I was able to get up and ride away without any problems), but the number of times I’ve been concerned it could happen are numerous.  Moments of pure terror for your continued existence (or at least your continued health) and high levels of pedestrian crossing related anxiety could be, if they’re brief and rare enough to be a novelty, fine fuel for creativity.  Perhaps.  I suppose.

Here is one small piece of creativity that did come directly from shared lights.  Just a few short lines I began to write in my head, unsurprisingly, as I was riding home from work one day and had a close encounter on a crossing.

So come place your lives in the hands of the drivers

who routinely go through pedestrian lights

I was nearly killed three times just on the way home

but I made it

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