I have found many examples of excellent pedestrian facilities during my visits to Japan. Among the best are those integrated with the Saitama Shintoshin Station along the JR Keihin Tohoku Line. I had the good fortune of staying at a hotel near the station, from where I could easily catch a train to go to Saitama University via Kita Urawa Station where I transfer for a short bus ride to the university. Following are photos taken in September 2008 showing the walkways connecting my hotel with the JR station. Along the way the walkway connects other buildings such as those hosting government offices and the Saitama Super Arena, a major venue for indoor sports events like the Asian basketball tournaments that determine the continent’s representatives to the Olympics and World Championships.
Tiled walkways with provisions for the blind (the yellow tiles) and protection from the elements
The walkways are wide and should be able to accommodate a high volume of pedestrian traffic. This section leads to the Saitama prefectural government offices located in the building on the background.
The yellow tiles forming the paths for blind pedestrians are designed to be under the shed and extends to the stairs from which the pedestrian could access the sidewalks and establishments at the ground level of the complex/area.
Stairs are designed with hand rails to support physically challenged people including the elderly. Note the yellow strips prior to the first step down the stairs.
Pedestrian need to have access to information and maps and directional signs provide guidance for people especially those unfamiliar with the area (e.g., visitors or tourists). Most signs in the urban areas of Japan have English translations like what is shown beneath the Japanese in the signs above.
Some maps have interactive features. In this case, there are buttons that provide audio description of places of interest on the map. Today, there are already touchscreen maps in malls and there should be outdoor versions of such facilities.
Another photo of the spacious walkways in the Saitama Shintoshin area. One could see the roof of the Saitama Super Arena on the upper left part of the photo and the building housing the elevators for those using wheelchairs or carrying heavy items.
Closer to the station and the arena.
There are plant boxes containing brushes and trees along the walkways, providing a more relaxing environment for pedestrians.
The walkways eventually lead to the complex where located is the Super Arena on one side to the train station in the middle and the commercial complex on the other side.
Walking from the station to the commercial establishments and office after the Super Arena (at right in the photo), there is a wide space for visitors (e.g., fans, spectators, etc.). There are many coffee shops and restaurants in the area where people could meet up for coffee or tea aside from grab a quick or leisurely meal.
This the view of a pedestrian approaching the Saitama Shintoshin JR station. Shops are located along the right side of the promenade while the arches form the roof structure of the station, reflecting the modern architecture of the transit station.
The Saitama Super Arena is also host to a museum dedicated to the late Beatle John Lennon.
Inside the JR station plaza with kiosks on the left side and ticket machine to the right. Further on are more commercial establishments located in an upscale mall.