As anyone who lives in a city knows, public sidewalks these days are a free-for-all of pedestrians staggering along, zombie-like, staring intently at the screens of their phones. As well as infuriating other pedestrians, there’s some evidence that this behavior increases our chances of being hit by a car.
To avoid that fate for its smartphone-addicted residents, a Dutch town is trying out a pilot program to put traffic lights where everyone is already looking. On the pavement.
Bodegraven, a town in the Netherlands, has installed LED light strips on the sidewalk that synchronize with traffic signals and turn red or green at pedestrian crossings, so that people can’t miss them even if their eyes are cast down toward their smartphone screens. The lights were built by HIG Traffic Systems, a company that is based in the town, and so far have been installed at a single intersection for a pilot project, but the company hopes to spread the idea to other towns and cities if the trial is successful.
“The attraction of social media, games, WhatsApp and music is great and at the expense of attention to traffic,” said Kees Oskam, a local councilor. “As a government, we probably can not easily reverse this trend, but we want to anticipate it in there.”