If you’re a city centre driver then you’ll know exactly what we mean by ‘Zombie pedestrians.’ In the current digital age, a lot of us are constantly glued to our mobile phones or tablets as we walk along the streets. It’s no secret that it is a sin to drive while on your mobile phone as it can cause fatal distractions, but there have been no such campaigns in the UK to encourage people not to walk out into traffic while on their mobile phones. Perhaps that needs to change.
Shaun Helman, a Chief transport scientist at the Transport Research Laboratory, has suggested that our road layout needs dramatic changes to prevent the likelihood of distracted pedestrians walking out in front of traffic.
One comical suggestion was adopting a pedestrian infrastructure which is already used in some Chinese cities where there are specific ‘text-walking’ lanes. Yes, it’s that bad.
In the city of Xi'an, there is a ‘zombie lane’ which is about a metre wide and over 100 metres long, outside of a shopping centre. The lane is painted in red and has a large mobile phone painted on it with the (translated) message 'designated pedestrian lane for the "head-down folks."’
Would this method actually be adopted in the UK? No, probably not. We’re struggling to implement remotely suitable cycle lanes here, now is not the time to venture out and create zombie lanes, but there is scope for less drastic changes.
Mr Helman said: 'If we are to provide information to people dependent to where they are looking.
'It is vital that this is placed at points where important decisions need to be made.
'If we are thinking about injury prevention ... there is actually a strong case for redesigning the infrastructure.'
This could be hinting at a number of things. Should road signs be placed on the floor to catch the eyes of people walking on their phones? Some pedestrian crossings already have ‘look left’ or ‘look right’ instructions painted on the floor, and people don’t seem to pay too much attention to them.
More realistically, there is a company in Holland who has produced and implemented kerbs with LED lights embedded inside them which flash red when it is not safe to cross the road. Again, this would be an expensive and difficult adjustment to make. Perhaps a well-published government safety campaign warning against the dangers of text-walking could be a more reasonable first step?