Chinese City Creates a Cell Phone Lane for Walkers

cell phone lane
A man rides his bicycle as people walk on the "first mobile phone sidewalk in China", which was recently installed at a tourism area in Chongqing municipality, September 13, 2014. China Daily/Reuters

Talk about an accident—or accidents—waiting to happen: in Chongqing, a sprawling city in central China, authorities have set up a "cell phone lane." No, it's not quite as bad as it sounds: this is not a lane for drivers with their heads down pecking away on their phones instead of keeping their eyes on the road. The Chongqing cell phone lane is on a street heavily trafficked by pedestrians—a lane where people focusing on their phones can stroll without running into anyone NOT holding a phone. They can only run into each other.

The point of this remains elusive. Is it public safety? How a dedicated walking lane—for people with their heads down preoccupied with their phones—makes anyone safer is a little fuzzy. Maybe the idea was hatched at one of the cell phone makers competing frantically for the world's biggest market for handsets, with Samsung and Apple trying to fend off Huawei, Lenovo and a host of other domestic competitors. If you can get people to bump into each other and drop their phones maybe replacement sales go up?

Chongqing city officials couldn't be reached for an explanation, and a local journalist contacted by Newsweek said she had walked on the street over the weekend and found a lot of cell phone users were ignoring the demarcated lane. Which brings up the problem of enforcement. Is the municipality of Chongqing going to set up a branch of cell phone police to write tickets to anyone straying into the wrong lane? Maybe they can be like the religious police in Saudi Arabia, who roam the streets looking for women not adorned in full burqa and other such travesties. (Though presumably cell phone jaywalkers would not be caned for their offense.)

For answers to this and other questions, the municipal government in Chongqing was, alas, unresponsive. Suffice to say, for residents and visitors to the city—one of the gateways to Sichuan province, which is among China's most beautiful regions—when walking the streets there, best keep your head up.