Singapore trials LED lights on pavements: What other places are doing to keep smartphone zombies safe

New in-ground traffic lights in Melbourne's city centre.
New in-ground traffic lights in Melbourne's city centre. PHOTO: VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT'S TRANSPORT ACCIDENT COMISSION

This article was first published on March 27, 2017, and updated on May 9, 2017.

SINGAPORE - People engrossed with their mobile phones at two pedestrian crossings in Singapore may no longer have to look up to know when to cross - thanks to new LED strips embedded in the pavements.

The LED strips are at the junction of Buyong Road and Orchard Road, near the Istana; and the Victoria Street crossing outside Bugis Junction.

They were switched on on Tuesday (May 9), and will be tested for six months before the Land Transport Authority decides whether to roll them out to other crossings.

The LEDs - visible in bright daylight - will go from steady green, flashing green to steady red, mimicking the sequence of the traditional Walking and Standing Man signs at pedestrian crossings.

Here are four other places around the world which have implemented creative measures to deal with smartphone zombies:

1. Bodegraven, Netherlands


The Dutch town of Bodegraven has launched a pilot programme to put traffic lights on the ground for the benefit of pedestrians who are looking down at their smartphones as they walk. PHOTO: HIG TRAFFIC SYSTEMS

The Dutch town of Bodegraven has adopted an unusual measure of installing traffic lights on the ground, to accommodate pedestrians looking at their smartphone screens instead of at the road ahead. And they are also unable to see approaching vehicles.

The LED light strips have been installed at one intersection, synchronising with traffic signals and turning red or green at pedestrian crossings.

2. Augsburg, Germany


Flashing traffic lights installed on the sidewalk in Augsburg, Germany. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE VIDEO

The German authorities in the southern city of Augsburg installed in-ground traffic lights on the sidewalk at crossings in two crowded train stations.

This was implemented after they saw a similar system in Cologne.

The flashing lights, which warn pedestrians against stepping onto the road, cost about €10,000 (S$15,100) each.

In response to complaints about the high cost, a spokesman for the Augsburg municipal service, Mr Jurgen Fergg, said it was justified when measured against the damage it can prevent.

3. Bangkok, Thailand


Thailand's first "mobile phone lane" for pedestrians has been implemented at Bangkok's Kasetsart University to accommodate tardy students who are sick of bumping into smartphone users on their way to class. PHOTO: THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The country's first "mobile phone lane" pedestrian footpath was opened at Bangkok's Kasetsart University (KU) in 2015, to help prevent tardy students from bumping into smartphone users on their way to class.

A 500m-long footpath was divided into two to separate phone users from non-users.

The initiative arose from the Toyota Challenge 2015, which invited university students to come up with marketing ideas to solve on-campus problems.

It was implemented on a trial basis until November that year in front of Central Building No 1, which has a lot of foot traffic during rush hour.

4. Chongqing, China

A sidewalk on one of Chongqing's busiest streets was divided into two lanes in 2014, one for those using cellphones while walking and the other for non-users.

The stretch in the south-western city is 50m long and 3m wide, with warning signs painted in white on the ground.

The road, known as "yangrenjie" or Foreigners Street, is a popular tourist attraction known for the faux Western architecture and amusement park around it.

Mr Long Cheng, spokesman for the developer that came up with the idea, said the lanes reminded tourists not to walk while using their phones.

There are no plans yet to expand the concept to the rest of the city.