The World's Biggest, Busiest Pedestrian Crossing?

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Welcome to Tokyo's Shibuya neighborhood, where, during rush hour, as many as 2,500 people cross the street at the same time

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We're in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, where some 10 lanes of automobile traffic and five major crosswalks converge, reportedly accommodating as many as 2,500 pedestrians with each rush-hour traffic signal change.

John M. Glionna writes in The Los Angeles Times:

On cue, the pedestrian masses on the four corners surged forward. Seen from above, they were great armies entering battle, each moving with determination toward their point of contact.

But there was no clash. In the middle, they came together in fluid movement, like cards shuffled in the hands of a Vegas dealer, each sliding seamlessly past the other.

For nearly a full minute, the intersection was a sea of humanity. Slowly, the crush trickled out and the asphalt was again almost empty, only a few stragglers rushing to beat the light.

Then it reverted to the throb of vehicle traffic, another cycle of Shibuya synchronicity complete . . .

In this polite nation, the passing bodies seem less chaotic than in, say, Beijing or New York, moving with the cool predictability of a stopwatch. Despite so much humanity inhabiting such a confined space, there's rarely a collision, sharp elbow, shoulder-brush or unkind word . . .

Congestion pricing, anyone?

Check it out on YouTube:




This post also appears on NRDC's Switchboard.
Image: Issei Kato/Reuters

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Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. More

Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. He is the author or co-author of Once There Were Greenfields (NRDC 1999), Solving Sprawl (Island Press 2001), Smart Growth In a Changing World (APA Planners Press 2007), and Green Community (APA Planners Press 2009). In 2009, Kaid was voted one of the "top urban thinkers" on Planetizen.com, and he was named one of "the most influential people in sustainable planning and development" in 2010 by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. He blogs at NRDC's Switchboard.
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