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Texting? This Sidewalk Is Not for You

As the issue of cell phones and distracted driving grows more divisive in many countries, a city in China has created a tongue-in-cheek way of discouraging distracted walking. The municipality of Chongqing has created a phone-free pedestrian lane on its sidewalks.

Chongqing, a municipality of 29 million in southwest China, is trying to figure out how to break pedestrians of the habit of walking while looking down at their phones, according to a report by Time magazine. The city thought it might try creating a separate pedestrian lane for those who are walking without phone in hand.

Signs and street markings announcing the lanes appeared recently on a short section of pavement in the city’s entertainment district. The markings, spread along about 100 feet of pavement, indicated that one section of the sidewalk was to be considered a no-cell-phone lane.

The UK’s Daily Mirror reported that pavement situated along Chongqing’s Foreigner Street displayed the word “cellphones” painted on the ground next to arrows marking the stretch of sidewalk as a separate walking lane.

In the pedestrian lane next door, there is a “no cellphones” sign, presumably aimed at pedestrians who have their cell phones put away and might be in a hurry or want to see the sights in the entertainment district.

Don’t Play with Your Phone

Nong Cheng, a spokeswoman for the district’s property management company, said in a statement that the signs were put up because of the large number of children and elderly people who walk in the crowded district, and that the markings were an attempt to prevent collisions.

However, Nong said, the markings did not indicate the passage of a new law and were meant to be a lighthearted way to point out that texting and walking can be hazardous.

The city officials who designed the markings were on hand to remind pedestrians of the lane divisions, telling them, “It’s best not to play with your phone while walking.”

If the new measure isn’t meant to be completely serious, that’s exactly how pedestrians are taking it. Most pedestrians are still texting while walking in the lane that’s supposed to be free of cell phones, acknowledging the new guidelines only by stopping and photographing signs that refer to it.

Not All Serious

Time reported that the inspiration for the dual sidewalk might have come from a U.S. National Geographic TV special. The program’s producers created similar divisions on a section of pavement in Washington, D.C., in July as part of a behavior experiment.

The difference in the National Geographic show was that it created one pedestrian lane for fast walkers and one designated for slow walkers, and filmed people as they decided which category fit them. As in Chongqing, the street markings were mostly ignored. Two years ago, the office of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter issued a press release about a similar pedestrian lane, but only as part of an April Fool’s Day prank.

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