A bit of infrastructure innovation has spared some slow-walking lives.

They may have a tough exterior, but Japan’s turtles are no match for the nation’s railway system.

As bad luck would have it, these beloved reptiles are getting trapped between railway switches while trying to cross the train tracks. Once the switch points begin to move, the turtles are then crushed by the weight. Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily newspaper, reports that turtles have caused 13 train disruptions between 2002 and 2014 in Kyoto and Nara.

Though the incidents may be few, they’re easily avoided with a bit of ingenuity. The solution—discovered by the West Japan Railway Company and the Suma Aqualife Park—is to create separate, U-shaped lanes underneath the existing tracks just for turtles. The animals can then cross the tracks without getting stuck or smashed as a train approaches. Already, pathways at two railway stations in the Nara prefecture have saved 10 precious turtle lives.

As an added precaution, the West Japan Railway Company is monitoring the lanes monthly. Any turtles found trapped there are then sent to the Suma aquarium. While the system may not be extensive enough yet to save all of Japan’s turtles from railway peril, at least some of them are now slow, safe, and sound.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. People standing in line with empty water jugs.
    Environment

    Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ Water Crisis, One Year Later

    In spring 2018, news of the water crisis in South Africa ricocheted around the world—then the story disappeared. So what happened?

  2. A woman looks straight at camera with others people and trees in background.
    Equity

    Why Pittsburgh Is the Worst City for Black Women, in 6 Charts

    Pittsburgh is the worst place for black women to live in for just about every indicator of livability, says the city’s Gender Equity Commission.

  3. a photo of a full parking lot with a double rainbow over it
    Transportation

    Parking Reform Will Save the City

    Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   

  4. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  5. Charts

    The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams

    A new exhibit from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association showcases the simple visualizations of complex ideas that have changed how we live.

×