Researchers from France and Japan compared pedestrian behavior at one marked and one unmarked crossing each in the cities of Strasbourg, France, and Inuyama, Japan. The sites were nearly identical in terms of street width, traffic volume, and speed limit.
The behavior of pedestrians at the French and Japanese study locations, meanwhile, differed markedly. At the legal crosswalk in France, 67 percent of pedestrians crossed against the light. In Japan, only 7 percent of crossers disobeyed the crosswalk signals.
And the difference doesn’t just seem to be about whether or not pedestrians follow the rules. “Being a law-abiding citizen might explain the difference in walking at legal crossings,” writes Eric Jaffe, “but the difference that occurred at unmarked crossings suggests that some aversion to risk may play a role, too.” In Strasbourg, jaywalkers stepped into traffic when the space between cars lasted 9 seconds or longer. In Inuyama the threshold was 16 seconds.