New 'look up' signs in Ang Mo Kio: How 6 other countries 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

SINGAPORE - Smartphone zombies, look up!

The authorities have embarked on a new pilot initiative in Ang Mo Kio to get smartphone users who are glued to their phones to be more aware of road safety.

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 since Wednesday (June 26).

Next to the traffic lights at the junction are also mini billboards reminding pedestrians not to be distracted while crossing the road.

The initiative is by the Ang Mo Kio GRC, together with the Land Transport Authority, Traffic Police and Singapore Kindness Movement.

Here are six other places around the world which have implemented creative measures to deal with smartphone zombies, or "smombies".

1. ILSAN, SOUTH KOREA

A 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, smartphone users will be warned by laser beam projected from power poles. An alert will also be sent to the phones by an app that reminds them they are about to step into traffic.

Drivers will be alerted by the flashing lights.

The multi-dimensional warning system is operated by radar sensors and thermal cameras and comes with a price tag of 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

Similar to the ones used in Singapore, 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 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.

4. AUGSBURG, GERMANY


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

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$15,400) 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.

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 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.

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 "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.