Cell phone addicts in southwest China are the first to be given the first dedicated sidewalk lane for cell phone users.
Popular tourist destination Chongqing has asked locals and tourists who can't get their eyes and hands off their cell phones to walk down a special 165-foot stretch of pavement separated by a white line from the regular sidewalk located on Foreigner Street in the city's entertainment zone. The special sidewalk lane is flanked by a large sign that says "Cell phones, walk in this lane at your own risk" in Chinese and English.
Nong Cheng, a spokesperson for Meixin Group which manages the property, says the phone lanes were made to prevent unwanted collisions of cell phone users with children and the elderly.
"There are lots of elderly people and children in our street," says Cheng. "And walking with your cell phone may cause unnecessary collisions here."
Cheng says the idea for a special sidewalk lane for cell phone addicts was inspired by a similar two-way walking lane created in Washington, D.C. However, the special cell phone users' lane was not put there by the government. It was placed there as part of a behavioral experiment conducted by the National Geographic Channel for the television show "Mind over Masses."
Among the experiment's notable results was the fact that the phone lanes were not able to attract the cell phone users mostly because they were too distracted by their phones to notice the special markings on the sidewalk. The experiment also showed that only a minority of pedestrians switched courses when they saw the special lane, preferring instead to take a picture of the sidewalk with their phones than walk down the designated lane.
On Weibo, China's own social network, users scoffed at the idea of walking down a lane dedicated to "phubbing" or phone snubbing. One user asked if he was supposed to "jump to the other side of the path when I get an incoming phone call." Another suggested that perhaps the Chingqong government can also build a special traffic lane closed off to drunk drivers.
Although a sidewalk dedicated to cell phone users seems unnecessary, cell phone-related injuries are on the rise. A report released by the University at Buffalo in New York reveals that although distracted driving causes more severe injuries, accidents due to distracted walking happen far more frequently.
"When texting, you're not as in control with the complex actions of walking," explains Dietrich Jehle, professor of emergency medicine at the university. "While talking on the phone is a distraction, texting is much more dangerous because you can't see the path in front of you."
The Chinese seem to replicate the results of the National Geographic Channel experiment, with more users taking pictures of the special phone lane instead of heeding the warning, says Cheng.