November 17th, 2004

Saw these fellows laying in wait the other day. The embankment they’re next to overlooks an underpass. The underpass has two lanes, separated by a yellow line. On days with good weather and heavy traffic, these guys wait up here on their perch, scouting the traffic below. They’re looking for motorcycles that cross the yellow line. A completely innocuous offense, never any danger–the underpass is no more dangerous for lane-changing than anywhere else on the street where there’s no yellow line, but it’s a rule, and the rules rule here. So it is a technical offense, and you can get a ticket for it. So the cops take up their perch and hand out a steady stream of tickets.

Their position is well-chosen: though it’s not clear in the photo above, they’re overlooking the bottom of the underpass just after the road that crosses over it (see right). To see them, a driver would have to look up over their left shoulder just as they come out from under the overhead street, and none do; the cops, meanwhile, have a bird’s eye view of people as they drive by. In other words, it’s shooting fish in a barrel.

The ticketing in fact makes no real sense. The offense, as I mentioned above, is a technical one and poses no more danger than any regular merge in traffic. It’s not a high-danger area–I go past there every day, and that’s not where accidents happen or where traffic is at its trickiest. Furthermore, there will never be any end to offenders–too many new people going through. Nor will it “teach a lesson” to any regular drivers–the cops are always in the same place, every time, so when a driver spots them once, they know where the cops will always be–which in fact frees the drivers to break traffic laws elsewhere, confident in knowing where the cops are located.

The only reason they are in that location is because it’s easy to catch and fine people. Period. That’s it. I’ve noted this kind of thing before, in this post from a year and a half ago. But it’s nice to note that their consistency hasn’t waned. Too bad their incompetence or uselessness hasn’t either.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2004 Tags: by
  1. November 18th, 2004 at 06:38 | #1

    The only real offence here are those hilarious royal blue uniforms.

  2. Andrew
    November 23rd, 2004 at 00:00 | #2

    I see the same thing all the time on Gaien-Nishi and Shinjuku-Doori — a corner that provides a steady stream of new drivers. Don’t even think about running a red light there — unless you’re a taxi driver, bus driver, delivery driver, or it’s raining or after dark. On the surrounding streets, do whatever you please; they’ll never notice!

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