How six cities tackle smartphone zombies

Large yellow stickers that say "LOOK UP", along with a picture of a mobile phone crossed out, have appeared on the pedestrian ramps on the corners of the intersection and at the entrance to the Ang Mo Kio MRT station.
Large yellow stickers that say "LOOK UP", along with a picture of a mobile phone crossed out, have appeared on the pedestrian ramps on the corners of the intersection and at the entrance to the Ang Mo Kio MRT station. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Here's how six cities around the world deal with smartphone zombies, or "smombies".

1. ILSAN, SOUTH KOREA

This city in South Korea, which has the world's highest smartphone penetration rate, has installed flickering lights at a road crossing to warn smartphone zombies to look up and drivers to slow down, in the hope of preventing accidents.

In addition to red, yellow and blue LED lights on the pavement, laser beams projected from power poles warn smartphone users. An alert is sent to their phones by an app to remind users they are about to step into traffic. Drivers are also alerted by the flashing lights.

The multi-dimensional system, operated by radar sensors and thermal cameras, cost 15 million won (S$17,500) per crossing.

2. TEL AVIV, ISRAEL


Tel Aviv has installed special LED sidewalk lights at a busy crosswalk to alert distracted pedestrians staring at their phones. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

Tel Aviv has installed special LED sidewalk lights at a busy crosswalk to alert distracted pedestrians staring at their phones.

The pilot programme began in March. The striped lights turn green when it is safe to walk, and red when pedestrians should halt.

3. BODEGRAVEN, NETHERLANDS


The Dutch town of Bodegraven 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 has installed traffic lights on the ground to accommodate pedestrians looking at their smartphone screens instead of at the road ahead. The LED light strips have been installed at one intersection, synchronising with traffic signals and turning red or green at pedestrian crossings.

4. AUGSBURG, GERMANY


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

In the southern city of Augsburg, in-ground traffic lights have been installed on the sidewalk at crossings in two crowded train stations.

The flashing lights warning pedestrians against stepping onto the road cost about €10,000 (S$15,400) each.

5. BANGKOK, THAILAND


Thailand's first "mobile phone lane" for pedestrians was implemented at Bangkok's Kasetsart University in 2015. PHOTO: THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The country's first "mobile phone lane" pedestrian footpath was opened at Bangkok's Kasetsart University in 2015, to help prevent 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.

6. CHONGQING, CHINA

A sidewalk on one of Chongqing's busiest streets was divided into two lanes in 2014, one for those using mobile phones 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 yang ren jie, or Foreigners' Street, is a popular tourist attraction known for the faux Western architecture and amusement park around it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'How six cities tackle smartphone zombies'. Print Edition | Subscribe