These days people are captivated by their smartphones and connected devices; so much so that they have become oblivious to the world around them. This smartphone addiction is especially prevalent in Chinese youth. That’s why the city of Chongqing has created the first mobile phone sidewalk.
Now, distracted pedestrians who can’t tear away from their screens have their own walking lanes. It was inspired by a segment shot for a TV program on the National Geographic Channel, in which producers painted a sidewalk in Washington DC with similar markings.
A warning sign painted in white proclaims: “Cellphones walk in this lane at your own risk” on the road, known as Yangrenjie (Foreigners’ Street). The street is a popular tourist attraction because of its Western architecture and amusement park. It runs for 50 meters and is 3 meters wide.
How’s it working? As you might have expected, not so great.
“Those using their cell phones of course have not heeded the markings on the pavement,” said Nong Cheng. “They don’t notice them.”
Other pedestrians ended up snapping pictures of the signage, clogging foot traffic even further. And even though the designated phone sidewalk lane may not have achieved the intended results in either location, that doesn’t make it a bad idea; once society internalizes it, like the walk on the left, stand on the right standard on escalators.
And yet there does seem to be some pressure building behind the idea that distracted walking is a real problem. In 2012, Philadelphia announced what it called an “e-lane” for smartphone users. Although the scheme turned out to be an April fool, it was designed to raise a serious public safety issue. In 2013, a study at the Ohio State University found that distracted walking injuries are rising fast, with 1,506 recorded in US emergency rooms in 2010; seven times higher than in 2005.