FutureStructure

City Embeds Traffic Lights in Sidewalk to Assist iPhone-Addicted Pedestrians

The LED lights embedded in the sidewalks in one German town flash the red color to indicate when the pedestrians should stop walking.

by Vishal Mathur, Mint, New Delhi / April 29, 2016
Flashing LED lights in the ground are intended to identify the red traffic lights at the pedestrian crossing the tram stop. Thomas Hosemann

(TNS) -- Admit it, you spend a lot of time walking while looking down at your phone. Smart cities aren’t just about grand visions for the future, and the German city of Augsburg has set an example. Worried about the risk posed by the menace of smartphone-using pedestrians, the administration in the Bavarian city has installed traffic lights on pavements and sidewalks, which look up at pedestrians.

Augsburg officials realized pedestrians were far too engrossed in their smartphones while walking around, and did not pay attention to traffic lights or the movement of other pedestrians, cyclists, trams or vehicular traffic. Which is why the move to install traffic lights where smartphone users are most likely to be looking—down towards the ground. The LED lights embedded in the sidewalks flash the red color to indicate when the pedestrians should stop walking.

In fact, the Germans have given this phenomenon of smartphone obsession its own name — “smombie” — which is a combination of the words smartphone and zombie. In fact, this word was voted “youth word of the year” in November 2015.

The estimated cost of each light is 10,000 euros ($11,313), and the city administration hopes that this will prevent accidents involving pedestrians who are too engrossed in their phones to notice the environment around them. In March this year, a 19-year-old was seriously injured after he walked in front of an oncoming train, which he had not noticed.

Augsburg becomes the third city to attempt finding a solution for smombies. The city of Chongqing in China installed a “mobile phone sidewalk” concept in 2014 — the sidewalks had white paint markings on the ground to indicate on which side the smartphone-using demographic can walk, while allowing others who keep their phones in their pockets to walk unimpeded. In 2011, another Bavarian city, Cologne, installed something similar.

©2016 the Mint (New Delhi) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.