With active smartphones in China exceeding 700 million and China’s mobile internet users outnumbering PC internet users for the first time ever, it kinda sorta makes sense that a Chinese city somewhere would create a cellphone-only sidewalk lane.
Last week, an entertainment district in Chongqing unveiled a lane specially designated for people who want to walk as they use their cellphones, reported the Wall Street Journal.
“Cellphones, walk in this lane at your own risk” is printed in the lane in white lettering. The adjoining lane reads “No cellphones.”
So now, pedestrians in the proper lane can walk and text, tweet, check their e-mail, surf the net, read the news, watch movies, play games and shop — all with the comforting knowledge that they will bump into just as many people and things as they normally would.
“There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cellphone may cause unnecessary collisions here,” said Nong Cheng, a spokeswoman for the district’s property management company.
However, she clarified that the initiative was meant to be a satirical way to highlight the dangers of texting and walking.
Satire or not, the Chongqing phone lane looks pretty darn similar to one painted on a Washington, D.C. street earlier this year, according to WSJ.
That version was a National Geographic experiment into crowd behavior for an upcoming TV series. (Most people didn’t notice the markings because they were staring, oblivious and glassy-eyed, at the screens of their mobile devices, said a Yahoo Tech story at the time.)
While cellphone accident statistics in China are hard to come by, a study at Ohio State University found that distracted walking injuries in the US are rising fast, with 1,506 recorded in American emergency rooms in 2010, up from 256 in 2005, according to a story in The Guardian.
Earlier this year, the University of Buffalo reported that distracted walking results in more injuries per mile than distracted driving. Consequences include bumping into walls, falling down stairs, tripping over clutter or stepping into traffic.
A study at Stony Brook University found that when people used their cellphones while walking, they veered off course 61 percent more and overshot their target 13 percent more than when they were not distracted.
In 2012, an unsuspecting teenage girl using her cellphone in Xian was famously caught on surveillance video falling into a sinkhole 20 feet deep.
At the end of June, China had 527 million mobile internet users (91 percent of which were smartphone users), growing 5.3 percent in the six-month period, and representing a larger user base than PC internet users for the first time in the country’s history, Caixin reported.
In terms of usage, mobile transactions saw the most growth across the board with payments (159.2 percent), m-commerce (168.5 percent), banking (153.1 percent), group purchasing (226.4 percent), and travel booking (115.8 percent) all experiencing triple-digit increases, according to Rand Han, founder of Shanghai-based social media firm Resonance China.
People’s Daily tweeted pictures on Saturday showing pedestrians with and without smartphones using the cellphone sidewalk while Xinhua published photos of tourists taking pictures of the “first mobile phone sidewalks in China”.
Reactions to the new cellphone sidewalks were varied, according to China Daily.
“In my mind, these sidewalks help a lot in minimizing security risks for mobile phone addicts,” said Wang Li, a local resident who doesn’t use a mobile phone often.
Anthony Edwards, a 28-year-old actor from England, was enthusiastic, saying it was an improvement over his home country. “In England, we don’t have this kind of sidewalk,” he said.
However, his Chinese colleague, Xing Xing, thought the sidewalk was “pointless”.
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