When showing a picture of the "zipper streets" of Amsterdam, I mentioned that Japan was the only other place where I'd seen such an effort to carry out "tidy" infrastructure improvements. Happily, a reader who has worked in Japan sent a picture taken on the west side of Tokyo several years ago that illustrates the point :

Ikebukuru_2006A.jpg

The reader says:

>>The attached photo was taken on the Meiji Dori between Shinjuku and Ikebukuro in Tokyo, Japan while I lived there during a long term contract. It appeared to be a structure that allowed trucks and equipment to be lowered from street level down underground work areas, perhaps a new subway line. I marveled at how clever it was. There was little equipment noise and even less impediment to the traffic flow.

I was trekking up to Ikebukuro because my Dad, who had served as an MP at Sugamo Prison in Ikebukuro after WWII, wanted me to make the last visit there he knew he would not be able to make. Of course, the prison is gone and there was little recognizable left for him in the photos I took, but he seemed satisfied. He guarded Tojo in his last days.<<
And, to the previous question of why the Dutch are so good at "zipper street" skills, another reader explains:
>>After spending a good chunk of the last five years in Rotterdam, I note that the Dutch have two big advantages over the rest of the world when it comes to digging up streets:  most of the country is built on sand, not dirt (a result of their ongoing reclamation of the North Sea as usable land), and it is easy to dig through.  And for the most part, their utilities are under the sidewalks, not the streets, so its usually just pedestrians and bike traffic who have to work around it, not cars and trucks.

One more thought: the Dutch tradition of working hard at hand labor exceeds most countries: the culture really expects (and celebrates) hard work.  Their work crews put American equivalents to shame.  I'm always amazed at how hard they're working, and how quickly the work is done.<<

After the jump, zipper streets in Italy, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.

From a reader in Italy:

>>Zipper streets are a standard in Rome, Italy. But italians tend to raise the level... sometime we don't fill the holes after the first work is over. Someone is going to need to dig sooner or later...<<

The Singapore aspect:

>>The Economist published an article a few years ago which compared countries' policies on street openings.  I seem to recall that the upshot was that those with advance notice requirements and substantial fees (like Singapore) had fewer openings and the use of tunnelling robots.  Those with lax requirements (like England) get torn-up streets and masses of construction workers whose mothers never taught them to wear belts with their trousers.<<

And from a friend in Hong Kong:

>>Regarding your posting on Dutch civility here are some snaps taken outside of my office on Conduit Road in Hong Kong.

Zipper? It's more like a compound fracture.<<

HK!.png

HK2.png

HK3.png

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.