Mobile phone use: get in lane

Many years ago in London someone came up with a scheme to ease urban overcrowding by proposing a two-lane pavement system for pedestrians. Ostensibly it was aimed at particularly busy shopping streets like London’s Oxford Street, but there was talk that if it was successful it could be rolled out to other major cities around the country. The idea focused on a ‘fast’ land and a ‘slow’ lane along pavements, with patrol staff there to ensure no dawdling in the fast lane. It never took off.

The idea was revisited a few years ago ahead of the Christmas shopping season, again with two lanes proposed, a slow lane for the ambling window shopper, a fast lane for the time-pressured office worker. Again, it never really got off the ground.

One city in China has now brought the idea back to life and repurposed it with a technological spin. Chongqing in Southwest China has embraced the end-users’ love of or addiction to the smartphone and dedicated special walking lanes to the use of them. In the era of nomophobia, where users aren’t able to leave their mobile phones alone for longer than six minutes and look at their devices 150 times a day, this might perhaps be seen as a progressive initiative. Leave those who can’t leave their screens alone to swipe and text while walking along so that the rest of the people can make their way without fear of being bumped into or obstructed by a pre-occupied techie.

However there seems to be a bit more to the Chongqing experiment than first meets the eye. The city’s property manager has admitted that this isn’t a serious and long-term move, but a stunt that is intended to highlight the dangers of walking along with your face glued to your mobile device. But it does pose the question, that when nomophobia and device use addiction are very real things and people are going to use their phones when walking along regardless, might a two-lane pavement be a genuine possibility in future?

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