China, home to 700 million smartphone users, is now experimenting with new ways to prevent smartphone-related accidents: On a 165-foot pavement stretch in the city of Chongqing, pedestrians can choose between a normal lane and an exclusive one reserved for heavy users of mobile devices.
"There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cellphone may cause unnecessary collisions here," Nong Cheng, a marketing official for the group in charge of Chongqing's entertainment zone, told the Associated Press.
The idea is based on an experiment conducted by National Geographic Television earlier this year in Washington, D.C. - and is supposed to (ironically) raise awareness for the lack of attention many smartphone users pay to traffic and other pedestrians.
The problem of smartphone-focused pedestrians is not unique to China. According to the University of Washington, one in three Americans is busy dealing with a smartphone or other device at risky road crossings. It can lead to dangerous situations: The U.S. Department of Transportation recently established a connection between the increase in pedestrian deaths and such habits.
However, doubts have arisen over the mass practicability of exclusive lanes. Many pedestrians in Chongqing seemed confused, and clearly ignored the instructions.
The Chinese People's Daily newspaper tweeted pictures on Saturday showing pedestrians with and without smartphones using the cellphone sidewalk.
Shortly after the cellphone-lane was introduced, the preliminary analysis seemed sobering.
"Those using their cellphones of course have not heeded the markings on the pavement. They don’t notice them," Nong told the AP.