Texting While Walking? These Sidewalks Will Protect You

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Sidewalks in Hollywood are littered with stars. Sidewalks in Augsburg, Germany, have lights that warn smartphone users not to cross the street.

The Bavarian city has installed traffic lights embedded in the pavement at two intersections to warn pedestrians staring down at their mobile devices when crossing trams have the right of way, the Washington Post reports.

While pedestrians distracted by smartphones are nothing new, Augsburg's solution addresses a menace to distracted pedestrians that's more prevalent in Europe than in the United States: quiet electric streetcars. German media reports that at least two pedestrians have been injured in tram collisions in Augsburg while looking at their phones.

The new lights aim to prevent such collisions by flashing red when a tram approaches or when the normal pedestrian crossing signal is red. While some critics argue they are a waste of taxpayer money, a city administrator diplomatically defended them by explaining that "we realized that the normal traffic light isn't in the line of sight of many pedestrians these days. So we decided to have an additional set of lights - the more we have, the more people are likely to notice them."

Augsburg joins at least two other cities that have experimented with smartphone-friendly sidewalks. Chongqing, China, installed that country's first "mobile phone sidewalk" in 2014. Designated by white paint markings on the ground, one side is meant strictly for cell phone users—who can talk, text, swerve, and walk at fluctuating speeds—while the other allows people who keep their smartphones in their pockets to maneuver through the area unencumbered.

The National Geographic Channel has also experimented with segregating smartphone users from other pedestrians. It painted a section of a sidewalk in Washington, D.C. with two lanes, one reading "No cellphones," the other phone-friendly side suggesting that people "Walk at your own risk."

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