The Story Behind China's 'No Texting' Sidewalk Lanes

A Chinese city has unveiled a new "no-texting" sidewalk lane, but the agency behind the idea says it's an ironic stunt meant to raise awareness.

The Story Behind China's 'No Texting' Sidewalk Lanes
China Daily / Ran Wen

The modern-day scourge of texting while walking is finally being taken on by a Chinese city with generous sidewalk space and a liberal approach to civic planning — or so the story goes.

The scene is Chongqing, a bustling Chinese metropolis of almost 30 million people. As multiple outlets are reporting, a 50 meter stretch of sidewalk in the city has been split down the middle into two painted lanes: ones for people using their cell phones, and one for people walking unencumbered.

The sidewalks have apparently inspired a fair bit of buzz — according to the state-run paper China Daily, one local resident said the new measure could "help a lot in minimizing security risks for mobile phone addicts."

But The Wall Street Journal has picked up on some dissent within the country, highlighting one Weibo user who commented, "Is the goal here to encourage still more people to use their cellphones while walking?"

The story's pretty popular in Western media as well. Some outlets suggested the lanes were a serious civic initiative for combating tech addiction. The Inquisitr even blasted Chongqing for treating its citizens like "mindless zombies."

But a spokeswoman for the district's property management company told the Associated Press the concept was a satirical stunt meant to highlight the dangers of texting while walking. She also admitted few people were actually using the lanes as intended.

This idea has been tested before — specifically in July, when National Geographic took over a D.C. sidewalk to film an upcoming show. The film crew set up a similar two-lane arrangement segregating phone users from the masses and spent the day filming how people reacted.

One Yahoo writer who visited the filming wasn't impressed with the results, noting the lanes were mostly ignored by regular pedestrians and mostly went unnoticed by those on their cell phones. Furthermore, a lot of passers-by stopped to take photos of the novelty lanes — which ended up adding to the congestion.

A writer for Quartz points out, the Chinese no-phone lanes weren't exactly put up on a busy city thoroughfare — instead, the experiment went up in what Quartz calls "a bizarre theme park ... that is also home to the world’s largest public toilet."

This particular section of the city, known as Yangren Jie, or "Foreigner Street," is dotted with kitschy recreations of famous landmarks from around the world. These include replicas of Egypt's pyramids, Brazil's Christ the Redeemer statue ... and now, D.C.'s texting lanes, apparently.

It's easy to see why the story about no-texting lanes took off the way it did. Texting while walking is a widely unpopular and risky practice that's been linked to numerous accidents, both minor scrapes and lethal collisions. (Video via ABC, The New York Times)

Perhaps we just wanted to believe someone had finally found a solution.

This video contains an image from Getty Images.