Bangkok university footpath gets Thailand's first lane for smartphone users

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

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thailand's first "mobile phone lane" pedestrian footpath has been opened at Bangkok's Kasetsart University (KU) to accommodate tardy students who are sick of bumping into smartphone users on their way to class.

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

The initiative, proposed by KU students and sponsored by Toyota Thailand, was implemented on a trial basis until Nov 15 in front of Central |Building No 1, which has a lot of foot traffic during rush hour.

The results of the initiative will be assessed by the Performance Management Strategies team to compare the numbers from before and after the dual-lane footpath was implemented.

During the morning rush-hour period, many students are in a hurry to attend classes and their paths are blocked by others who text and talk on their cellphones, said Mr Natdanai Adisornpunkul, a third-year marketing major at KU's Business Administration Faculty.

Rushing students resort to walking on the road to get to where they are going, which is dangerous, he said.

After brainstorming and researching for solutions on the Internet, his group came up with the "mobile phone lane" and they called the project "Anyone Can Change", Mr Natdanai said. The project comprises the "mobile phone lane" and four warning signs with three mascots to warn students of oncoming traffic while crossing the road.

It was submitted to the Toyota Challenge 2015, which invited university students to come up with marketing ideas to solve on-campus problems.

Mr Natdanai said his team, comprising members Piyawan Kovitrojanapong, Namfon Chalongsukwat and Wannaporn Wuthapanich, has so far spent 6,000 baht (S$234.50) out of the 20,000 baht project fund.

"We need to promote this scheme, which was only set up on Sunday, because many people are still unaware of it," he said, adding that they would spend a week to observe people's feedback.

"As people nowadays spend so much time looking at their mobile phone screens, they could get hurt if they are unaware of their surroundings. This project will help to boost public safety, while encouraging people to adhere to traffic regulations," he added.

Ms Nutpapat Jarupan, a fourth-year tourism major, said she thought the scheme, which she heard about from peers, was so interesting that she tried using it. She said more public relations should be done to achieve the plan's goals.

Ms Wimonrut Cheeramok, another fourth-year tourism major, said she tried walking on the lane yesterday and noticed that many students were unaware of it.

"I think KU should promote it and inform to students more to boost the scheme's effectiveness," she added.

Mr Pasorn Saowaratthitada, a public relations officer at Toyota Thailand, said that if the project wins the contest, it would be recommended to KU, which would then decide if the scheme can be permanently implemented.

Last September, China's Chongqing City made headlines with a light-hearted plan to set up a "mobile phone lane" for pedestrians on the footpath of a short section of the downtown road for people with smartphones.

The initiative was apparently inspired by a United States model in which a similar dual-lane arrangement was created in Washington as part of a televised behavioural experiment.

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