A dedicated lane for people glued to their phone?

We’ve all seen the people that are glued to their phone screen, oblivious to anything and everything around them. Sometimes it can be funny as they walk into a post or walk into a pond but it can be painful when they take a foul ball at a baseball game to the face or downright dangerous when they walk into traffic. For everyone walking the streets these people pose a hazard as they are oblivious of other pedestrians on the sidewalk. Until now.

A solution in China?

The Chinese city of Xi’an has placed a dedicated lane on the sidewalk near a popular shopping mall for people who are glued to their phones. The mall has been pushing for this as many of the shoppers heading to and from there have become oblivious to their surroundings with their heads stuck in their phones and with cars barreling through the area.

The dedicated lane does not cover the entire city of six million people. It does not even cover the core shopping area, only the length of a parking area. It is only 100 meters long and is also not even one full meter wide so it is only wide enough for one person. It is painted red, green and blue so it is easy to pick out, helpful for someone whose eyes are staring at an email. It should be important to note that there is no actual sidewalk here, but instead it is a part of a walking path.

Reactions to the lane

Reactions to this have varied. Older people believe that the younger generation are addicted to their phones and want nothing to do with it. They compare these people and their addiction to their phones to the opium addicts that they saw as a child. Younger people say that the dedicated lane makes them feel safer. Most just look on it and laugh and it is probably just a matter of time until two oblivious users walk right into each other. Who knows, maybe it’ll be love at first sight and lead to a movie in the burgeoning Chinese film industry?

Dangers of being glued to your phone

That should come as no shock to anyone. Staring at a phone reduces a person’s peripheral vision by as much as 90%. Concentrating on typing a text or composing an email or even checking a calendar takes someone’s eyes off the street for up to a minute. Even walking a person can travel the length of a football field in that time. The Wall Street Journal has attempted to bring this issue to light by placing someone dressed as Chewbacca (had to get Chewbacca into this somehow!) and asking if people saw him. The results should not be surprising. In some municipalities people are being killed or severely injured because they are oblivious to their surroundings. Traffic fatalities are spiking all across the nation and the smartphone and its oblivious user seem to be at the heart of it (as well as smartphone users behind the wheel).

Attempts here in the US

National Geographic tried an experiment like this in San Francisco by providing a dedicated lane for people using their phones as well as a lane for people not on their phones in the downtown area. “Tickets” were issued to people who used the wrong lane. It did not go well. Meixin, the company that built this in Xi’an, wanted to bring attention to how much time people are spending on their phones. It has done just that but it has also become a local tourist attraction leading to many eager tourists snapping pictures of it using their phones. Oh the irony!

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