Photo courtesy of Thomas Hosemann/Stadtwerke Augsburg


By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

My mother used to warn me about looking both ways before crossing the street.

Now, the German city of Augsburg has embedded traffic lights in the pavement at busy street crossings to catch the attention of pedestrians engrossed in looking at their smartphones. The design is similar to the lights at the edges of transit platforms, which flash when a train is nearing the station.

Augsburg isn’t the first city to tweak its transportation infrastructure to protect “smombies,” or “smartphone zombies,” The Washington Post reported. The Chinese city of Chongqing experimented with a 165-foot stretch of pavement where pedestrians had to choose between walking on a normal lane and one reserved for those fixated on their phone.

Where some see public safety efforts, others sniff a “victim-blaming” conspiracy. A group pushing to reduce auto travel in favor of more walking, biking and transit use suggests such precautions represent “a 1950s-era mindset in which the only road users are those inside vehicles.”

Let’s help keep everyone safe by not walking—or driving—while operating a smart phone.