A 100 foot-stretch of sidewalk in the city of Chongqing claims to be the first street for mobile phone addicts in China. People with eyes fixed on their screens have their own specially painted lane.
Mobile phone users follow white arrows painted on one side of the sidewalk. No need to lift heads from the glued gaze at devices; the arrows direct underfoot. Could the idea (and the very spray-painted stencils) have been copied almost exactly from a program on the National Geographic channel earlier this year?
Mobile phone addiction is rampant in China, as it is worldwide. One recent survey by zhaopin.com, a recruitment site, suggested that 80 per cent of the 10,000 white collar workers it polled admitted “severe addiction” to their phones.
Philadelphia officials drafted a safety campaign aimed at pedestrians who look at their devices instead of where they’re going. “One of the messages will certainly be ‘pick your head up’ — I want to say ‘nitwit,’ but I probably shouldn’t call them names,” said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and public utilities.
As an April Fool’s Day joke with a serious message, Philadelphia officials taped off an “e-lane” for distracted pedestrians on a sidewalk outside downtown office buildings.
Some didn’t get that it was a joke.
“The sad part is we had people who, once they realized we were going to take the e-lane away, got mad because they thought it was really helpful to not have people get in their way while they were walking and texting,” Cutler said.
Walking and texting challenge us to pay attention simultaneously to two different activities. As with driving and texting, the dangers are real. But walking is more physically demanding than driving, requiring coordination on many levels.
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia found these effects of peripatetic texting:
- There is a distortion of gait and walking form, which even unintentionally, causes a more upright, rigid body position.
- Gait patterns change; texters take shorter steps at slower pace.
- With an unchanging head position, eyes on the screen and chins bent toward chests, their neck and lower back joints have less range of motion.
- When arms stop swinging loosely and are bent and locked into place, there are mechanical constraints on the upper body and midsection.
- As pelvic joints stiffen, their leg motions become jerkier.
- Walking a straight line is difficult; texters’ feet veer to the side with almost every step.
In summary: texters walk ‘like robots’. This research suggests that their bodies and brains have prioritized the texting over the natural movements in walking. Little wonder that poles and other pedestrians get in the way.
Adapted from “The Art of Texting While Walking” by Gretchen Reynolds.
A young man talking on a cellphone meanders along the edge of a lonely train platform at night. Suddenly he stumbles, loses his balance and pitches over the side, landing head first on the tracks. Fortunately, no trains were approaching that Philadelphia-area station at that moment. The man recovered his balance and climbed out of danger. Security cameras captured the whole incident and the images were sent to The Associated Press. The risks of distracted walking are getting everyone’s attention.
Hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. treat an increasing number of injured pedestrians. The cases include:
- a 24-year-old woman who walked into a telephone pole while texting
- a 28-year-old man who was walking along a road when he fell into a ditch while talking on a cellphone
- a 12-year-old boy who was looking at a video game when he was clipped by a pickup truck as he crossed the street
- a 53-year-old woman who fell off a curb while texting and lacerated her face
- a 67-year-old man walking along the side of a road was hit a by a bicyclist who was talking on a cellphone as he rode
It is difficult to trudge on snowy unplowed sidewalks
Early icy commutes to school on foot
Slipping and falling
Too slick to stand on, let alone travel over
Deserted classrooms, grumbling teachers
Befuddled politicians and bureaucrats
To open or to close, to open or to close
Parents splitting headaches
Stranded buses en route
Breakfast delivered to students stuck inside
Key words rearranged from article and source of photo:
“The magic of the street is the mingling of the errand and the epiphany, and no such gardens seem to have flourished in Italy, perhaps because they were unneeded. For the Italian pre-dinner stroll – the passaggiata – many towns close down their main streets to wheeled traffic. The street is the pivotal social space, for meeting, debating, courting, buying and selling.”
Quoted from: Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, pp. 178-179. http://www.amazon.com/Wanderlust-History-Walking-Rebecca-Solnit/dp/0140286012
Solnit quotes Edwin Denby: “In ancient Italian towns the narrow main street at dusk becomes a kind of theatre. The community strolls affably and looks itself over. The girls and the young men, from fifteen to twenty-two, display their charm to one another with lively sociability. The more grace they show the better the community likes them. In Florence or in Naples, in the ancient city slums the young people are virtuoso performers and they do a bit of promenading anytime they are not busy.” Of young Romans, he wrote, “Their stroll is as responsive as if it were a physical conversation.”
Solnit’s quote from: “In ancient Italian town the narrow main street”: Edwin Denby, Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets, introduction by Frank O’Hara (New York: Horizon Press, 1965), 183.
Photo Source: https://www.google.com/search?q=florence+passeggiata+images&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=iwQFU6LrMpCFogSF84LAAw&ved=0CCQQsAQ&biw=1366&bih=566
In Brooklyn, the No. 3 subway line ends at New Lots Avenue, where passengers descend from the elevated tracks to what used to be a nasty intersection, trafficked by prostitutes, drug dealers — “You name it,” as Eddie Di Benedetto, the owner of Caterina’s Pizzeria, put it the other day.
Not long ago, a coalition of local merchants and community leaders turned to the New York City Department of Transportation, which runs a program to make traffic circles, triangles and streets into pedestrian plazas. The department brought in some potted trees and chairs, closed off a short street and voilà, what had been a problem became a boon. Since the plaza opened last summer, crime has plummeted, Mr. Di Benedetto told me, crediting the local police precinct. He heads the New Lots Avenue Triangle Merchants Association.
“People use the place all the time now, meaning the area is watched and safe,” he said. “I’ve had my pizzeria since 1971, so I can tell you, this is a renaissance.”
From: “A Street Corner Serenade for the Public Plaza” by Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, June 2, 2013.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/arts/design/a-prescription-for-plazas-and-public-spaces.html?_r=0