Heads up! Chinese city launches smartphone-only sidewalk

A sidewalk in Chongqing now has two lanes: one where cellphones are banned and another that encourages them. It's modeled after an experiment in Washington.

Residents walk on a lane painted with instructions to separate those using their phones as they walk from others in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality in this photo taken Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. The Chinese city took a cue from a US TV program and created a sidewalk with a separate lane for those with heads tucked into smartphones, as a reminder not to tweet while walking the street.

The oft-maligned – but no less practiced – phenomenon of texting while walking has prompted one Chinese city to create a smartphone sidewalk lane for those too distracted by their device to watch where they’re going.

The move, while tongue-in-cheek, is meant to underscore the potential dangers of cellphone use in crowded cities. 

“There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cellphone may cause unnecessary collisions here,” Nong Cheng, the marketing official for the organization that designed the lane in Chongqing, told the Associated Press.

A 165 foot stretch of sidewalk in the city's entertainment zone now has two lanes: one that prohibits pedestrians from using cellphones next to one that warns them to proceed “at your own risk.”

The Meixin Group, which manages the area, borrowed the idea from Washington, where National Geographic Television in July created a similar sidewalk for a behavioral study. 

Distracted texters and tweeters aren't limited to Chinese streets. In 2011, surveillance footage showed a man meandering along a train platform in Philadelphia while talking on his cellphone before pitching over the edge and landing head first on the tracks, AP reports.

A woman in Australia made headlines for walking off the end of a pier while checking Facebook in December 2013. In January Pew Research Center reported that 53 percent of all adult cellphone users "have been on the giving or receiving end of a distracted walking encounter."

In February, Hong Kong studied measures to ease the rush-hour crush on trains, caused in part by passengers needing more room to maneuver their electronic devices, the South China Morning Post reported. Hong Kong's Transport and Housing Bureau said the prevalence of mobile gadget use on the subway meant that a maximum of four passengers could occupy a square meter instead of six.

Mr. Nong said that pedestrians in Chongqing were not taking the new lanes seriously, but that many were snapping pictures of the signs and sidewalk.

“Those using their cellphones of course have not heeded the markings on the pavement,” she said. “They don't notice them.”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.