Pedestrian ‘Texting Lane’ Comes to Utah Valley University


One university in the United States is introducing a “texting lane” on its staircases in an effort to prevent cases of cell phone-using pedestrians from running into each other.

Utah Valley University (UVU), the largest public university in the state with over 34,000 students enrolled, recently added a ‘texting lane’ to its staircase going to the new Student and Wellness Center.  The staircase offers a section for walking, one for running, and one for texting.

The separate lanes were created to help prevent students from crashing into each other, as some walk up the stairs with their eyes glued to their phones.

“You have 18-24 year olds walking down the hall with smartphones, you’re almost bound to run into someone somewhere; it’s something we’re dealing with in this day and age,” Matt Bambrough, the creative director at UVU told Fusion.

Bambrough added that the main goal behind the new staircase was not to prevent collisions, but rather to engage the students.  “It’s meant to be there for people to look at and enjoy,” he said.

The wording on the stairs was painted on with fluorescent green paint in order to attract attention, and was created as part of an art project designed by the school’s creative service team rather than as a school policy.

However, not everyone is staying in the designated lanes.

“This graphic is obviously more aesthetic than functional, and through watching people take these stairs, most people don’t obey the posted lanes,” Bambrough said.

Similar walking areas for texters have been reported in Antwerp, Belgium as well, for use on some of the more congested shopping streets, although those lanes were set up as a publicity move by local cell phone company Mlab.  However, the first place to introduce the concept was Chongqing, China, where painted sidewalks were added last September featuring signs that read “Cell phone users walk in this lane at your own risk.”

As part of a behavior experiment for National Geographic Television, sidewalks in Washington, DC were painted to create separate lanes for pedestrians who wanted to look at their cell phones and for those who wanted to walk quickly.  According to researchers, only a few pedestrians actually walked in the correct lane after noticing the signs.

Data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System suggests that around 6 people die each year in the United States due to becoming distracted by “portable electronic devices.”  Meanwhile, a separate analysis of federal emergency room data found that the number of pedestrian injuries due to using a cell phone have risen by 35% since 2010.