Hong Kong’s phone-obsessed pedestrians get extra help at the crosswalk

HONG KONG — In a city where pedestrians taped to their phones are likely to get caught in traffic, the “red man” at the crosswalk is getting some support.

Devices recently installed at several Hong Kong street crossings project a red light onto the edge of the sidewalk — as well as any pedestrians standing there — when the “Don’t Walk” signal is activated in a pilot project to improve pedestrian safety.

The devices address common risk factors for pedestrians, such as “inattention” and “careless crossing,” which have been exacerbated by increased phone use in the city, Hong Kong’s Transport Ministry said in an email.

The Chinese territory of 7.4 million people recorded seven pedestrian deaths from January to June this year, according to the department. Jaywalkers face a HK$2,000 (US$255) fine.

The devices have been installed at traffic lights at seven crosswalks in different parts of Hong Kong and are being monitored for efficiency. If the six-month trial period is successful, the system will be rolled out more widely.

According to the Ministry of Transport, the initiative was inspired by similar projects in other countries. Many major cities in mainland China have equipped crosswalks with LED lights that light up from the street to alert distracted jaywalkers.

Testing the safety device at a road junction., Hong Kong, China - July 07, 2022
The initiative was inspired by similar projects in other countries.Jerome Favre/EPA via Shutterstock

A recent survey conducted by NBC News in the Causeway Bay area of ​​Hong Kong found that out of 100 pedestrians who entered a crosswalk with the new device, at least half interacted with their mobile phone.

Nick Chau said he was excited when he saw the “unique” lights and snapped some photos with his girlfriend.

“I’ve seen the lights on my friends’ Instagram, but this is my first time seeing them,” he said. “Most of my friends say it’s interesting and it might help them if they take their phone for a walk.”

Adrian Chan also took a few pictures of the lights, which he said “have already become a landmark.”

He said he doesn’t think the lights are helpful to him personally, but “maybe all the red lights will subconsciously help discourage people from jaywalking.”

Others only noticed the lights after being pointed out.

Ian Brownlee, chief executive of Hong Kong planning consultancy Masterplan Limited and a member of the Citizens Task Force on Land Utilization, said that while the lights could help, pedestrians in the crowded city also face other safety issues such as narrow sidewalks.

“In areas where there is an intersection and pedestrians have to wait for the lights to change, it can become a congestion point, and jaywalking is generally a problem in those areas,” he said. Hong Kong’s phone-obsessed pedestrians get extra help at the crosswalk

Fry Electronics Team

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