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Map of Japan

Functioning of pedestrian signals
Pedestrian Signal
  • A 'red man, green man' signal is used
  • Pedestrian signal timing
  • WALK or 'green man' timing is figured based on walking time of 1 meter per second and is calculated to the center line of the intersection.
  • Flashing DON'T WALK timing seemed to average 3 seconds, followed by a brief all red.
  • According to Mr. Sugimoto at Japanese National Police Agency (JPNA), which manages all intersections, the flashing DON'T WALK time is figured based on distance from the center of the intersection to the curb at a walking speed of 1 meter per second. The assumption is that the pedestrian will turn around and go back to the starting curb if FDW begins before he/she has gotten to center of the street. However, Mr. Sugimoto observes that many pedestrians are confused by this system.
  • Mr. Sugimoto also stated that intersection timing always includes a pedestrian phase, and at locations with vehicular actuation, pedestrian buttons are provided to lengthen the phase and/or actuate an audible signal.
  • Many intersections have pretimed signalization.
Image of
"Red man, green man” type signal is used in Japan.

Intersection geometry
Streets are generally wide. Driving is on the left.

Even where there is a very wide median it is not considered or used as pedestrian refuge.

Most intersections have pedestrian crosswalks; a fence is typically used where crossing is prohibited.

At areas with high levels of pedestrian traffic, there may be exclusive pedestrian phasing. Most intersections with exclusive pedestrian phasing have audible signals.

Japan has very few non-signalized turn lanes or pork chop type islands.

Tactile Ground Surface Indicators, such as bar tiles and 'dot tiles' (called detectable warning in the US) are ubiquitous in urban areas and have been in use since the 1960s. There was often a bar tile leading toward the crosswalk, with dot tiles at the edge of the street. However, the tiles, locations, and installation varied greatly.

Installation example
At this intersection a chain fence is used 
              where crossing is prohibited. The chain fence prevents pedestrians from crossing to the other side of the street at that intersection
At this intersection a chain fence is used where crossing is prohibited.

Number of APS
Japan has 170,000 signalized intersections. Of those, 10,570 intersections have audible pedestrian signals.

There are a variety of APS systems, most with sound broadcast from the pedestrian signal head. A number of melodies and tones are used to indicate the WALK interval. The tone or melody varies from municipality to municipality; each is allowed to choose its own. JPNA has developed a receiver-based system called PICS.
  • 7978 intersections have bird chirps from the pedhead during the WALK interval
  • 2592 intersections have melodies from the pedhead during the WALK interval
  • 300 intersections in 20 cities have an infrared APS system (PICS-A) compatible with The Smith-Kettlewell/Talking Signs® standard as developed and evaluated under the direction of JPNA
Pedhead with APS 
              speaker is mounted on a mast arm overhanging the crosswalk below.
Pedhead with APS speaker is mounted on a mast arm overhanging the crosswalk below.

Functioning of broadcast APS
  • Most common sounds for a Walk interval.
  • Alternating signal now the recommended signal and costs a 'trivial amount' more than non-alternating. Usually use birdcalls; and are beginning to install alternating signals with different sounds, (chirp and chirp-chirp) on different sides of the street.
  • Variety of melodies broadcast into the intersection, with a change in melody during the clearance interval.
  • Often quite loud; sometimes possible to hear the melody of a crossing of an intersection from a block away
Japanese pedhead 
              with APS speaker pointing straight down toward the pedestrian below.
Japanese pedhead with APS speaker pointing straight down toward the pedestrian below.
Speech message
  • Message was "WALK" and the street name in Japanese
  • Speaker in the pedestrian signal head may be pointed straight down toward the pedestrian below.
Other characteristics
  • Very few APS had locator tones at the pushbutton.
  • APS may have a sound for the pedestrian clearance interval:
  • Yokohama used sound like that of an emergency vehicle
  • Some APS in Tokyo used increased repetition rate of cuckoo or chirp during the clearance interval
  • Fairly common in Tokyo to center the APS speaker over the crosswalk on mast arm extending from the pole
  • APS sound is usually turned off at 8:00 pm because residents nearby are bothered by noise.
Functioning of PICS System
PICS system is being developed, evaluated and installed under the direction of JPNA.
  • Communicates from an infrared transmitter called an "IR station," and short range radio transmitter installed at the intersection, to a receiver carried by pedestrians.
  • There are two types of PICS systems.
The PICS-A system 
              is shown with four infrared transmitters mounted on a horizontal 
              mast arm.
The PICS-A system is shown with four infrared transmitters mounted on a horizontal mast arm.
PICS-A speech system
PICS-A speech system provides pedestrian traffic signal information and location information for bus stops and public facilities through a speech message to visually impaired pedestrians. As the traveler approaches within 10 meters of the intersection where the PICS-A system is installed, an FM radio message is received by the hybrid radio/IR receiver in either a speech or vibration mode. The vibration alerts users to the presence of the transmitted signal. The speech message identifies the intersection. When pedestrians arrive at a corner and are within the crosswalk with the receiver aimed toward the infrared transmitter on the opposite corner, they receive IR speech information about the status of the pedestrian signal. A third function extends the pedestrian phase when a button on the receiver is pushed.

PICS-B image system
The PICS-B image system extends green lights and provides route guidance and information about the surrounding area on a visual display to people with mobility or hearing impairments. Portable receivers (transceivers) are pointed at "IR stations" located near pedestrian traffic signals to extend the pedestrian signal timing, make emergency contacts, and obtain route guidance and information of surrounding area. A visual display provides information to the pedestrians.

The authors found the variety of overhead speakers loudly broadcasting musical sounds or birdcalls to be confusing and distracting. Although these systems have been in use in Japan for about 40 years, there is growing concern about the noise pollution they cause.

The PICS-A system provided signal and directional guidance quite efficiently. Radio transmitted information was useful for general intersection information on approach. A large array of transmitters is required for this system.
  • The standard receiver is hand-held and can hang on a neck cord or be put in a pocket when not in use.
  • A head-mounted receiver is under development by Mitsubishi Precision Corp. The authors used this receiver at one intersection and found it effective.
Sources of information
Kunio Kurachi, Mitsubishi Precision Co., Ltd, Tokyo

Takabun Nakamura, Okayama Prefectural University, Okayama

Hirohiko Ohkubo, Mitsubishi Precision Co., Ltd., Tokyo

Michiko Shimizu, Orientation and mobility specialist, Tokyo

Osamu Sueda, Rehabilitation Engineering Society of Japan and University of Tokushima Mikio Sugimoto, National Police Agency, Government of Japan, Tokyo

Masaki Tauchi, Okayama Prefectural University, Okayama

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