CROSSING GUARDS

Cities institute lighting systems to protect distracted pedestrians

31 May 2017

Though youth feel strongly about guarding their digital safety online, the problem of being distracted by smartphones while navigating the real world has become a growing safety issue. In response, multiple companies are devising lighting solutions to help protect pedestrians from traffic accidents in cities around the world.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

In-ground traffic-light technology is undergoing a six-month trial period at five significant intersections in Sydney’s central business district. The lights are part of the New South Wales government’s Towards Zero campaign, which aims to reduce the number of roadside deaths and serious injuries that occur on city streets, a problem that has increased in recent months. The lights will flash red to indicate traffic is approaching and that pedestrians should not cross the street. The government was also motivated by a University of Queensland study that found that texting while walking made people less likely to walk in a straight line.

AUGSBURG, GERMANY

Utilities company Stadtwerke Augsburg installed LED lights along the curbs at two tram stops in the southern German city. As in Australia, the lights flash red to indicate if a car is approaching so that pedestrians looking down at their phones will know not to cross the street. This problem has become so prevalent in Germany that a dictionary publisher even coined the term “smombie,” or smartphone zombie, for a person who stares down at their phone while walking.

BODEGRAVEN, NETHERLANDS

The Dutch town of Bodegraven installed a system of pedestrian traffic signals called +Lichtlijn, which roughly translates to “lightline,” at three intersections near schools. The LED lights turn red or green to signal whether it’s safe or not for people to cross the road. However, the system is receiving some criticism for rewarding people for not being present nor paying attention to their surroundings. The future-forward Netherlands has also piloted other traffic safety and environmentally sustainable measures, including glow-in-the-dark road markings and a charging lane for electric vehicles.