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Blog In Travel Addicts

What is that yellow line on the sidewalk?

blog:21332:5::0
By Igor I. Solar
Posted May 3, 2013 in Travel
A visitor to Japan will notice very early in its visit that everywhere there are yellow lines on the ground with a surface showing different types of relief marks. They are on the sidewalks of the streets, on the platforms of subway and train stations, bus terminals, in airports, in all public places. The lines are only one tile wide (about 30-40 cm); regularly continuous along the sidewalk, and splitting in various directions at intersections. The material of the tiles is hard, rubbery, and the surface is textured with different elements including lines or dots.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators. No obstacle  just proceed straight ahead.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators. No obstacle, just proceed straight ahead.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators. Changing direction or proceeding towards the intersection. The co...
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators. Changing direction or proceeding towards the intersection. The continuous dotted yellow line at the edge indicates a complete stop before crossing.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators along the subway station platform with additional markings showing...
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators along the subway station platform with additional markings showing the spots to board the train.
The ubiquitous presence of these yellow lines made me think that they couldn’t be just decorative features on the street or platforms, but there had to be a good reason for such widespread use of the apparently mysterious arrangements of textured yellow lines. In the beginning, I thought they could be useful to organize pedestrian traffic flow on busy sidewalks: right of the line for those going in one direction, left, for those going in the opposite direction. However, most people seemed to ignore the line and walked either left or right without following a distinct pattern.
Then I decided to investigate and found the answer: the yellow lines are called “Tactile Ground Surface Indicators” (TGSI). They are designed to be used by blind people as a guide to navigate streets, intersections, road crossing, entrance to stairs, subway and train platforms, and so on. The blind can feel the texture of the lines through their footwear or with the help of a cane. Thus, they can follow a straight line along the sidewalk, turn either right or left when the line switches direction, stop at a crosswalk when the pattern of the surface changes from line to dots, or prepare to go into a stairway leading into a subway station or into a store.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators along the train station platform.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators along the train station platform.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators. Long yellow  line along the sidewalk in Sapporo  Japan.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators. Long yellow line along the sidewalk in Sapporo, Japan.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators. Yellow lines directing visually impaired people to the stairway d...
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators. Yellow lines directing visually impaired people to the stairway down to the subway station or continuing on along the sidewalk, or to the bus stop.
I was impressed. Being blind or having a visual impairment is less problematic if you live in Japan. This extraordinary consideration to visually handicapped people is consistent with the general principles of politeness and consideration in Japanese culture that Japanese people extends to anyone requiring assistance, whether it may be because of a physical handicap or a language limitation. While visiting Japan, I found that seeming to be somewhat hesitant or clearly disoriented (often by standing at a street corner while rotating a map around in different directions), inevitably brought someone to my side willing to help me find my direction and even willing to take me to my destination.
Like so, having a visual or language impairment, perhaps the best place in the world to travel and get lost, is a busy city or train station just about anywhere in Japan.

blog:21332:5::0
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