Dutch town installs lights on sidewalks to assist distracted pedestrians

Photo from HIG via Twitter.

Learning to drive, you are taught that pedestrians always have the right of way. And while that may have been true a decade ago, a growing number of pedestrians are so preoccupied with their smartphones that they sometimes forget to pay attention to their surroundings.

In a bid to help these tech junkies cross the street safely in the Netherlands, the Dutch municipality of Bodegraven-Reeuwijk has partnered with HIG Traffic Systems to install LED light strips on the pavement so pedestrians no longer have to look up from their smartphones to know if they have the right of way or not.

“Smartphone use by pedestrians and cyclists is a major problem,” Mark Hofman of HIG told regional public broadcaster Omroep West. “Trams in The Hague regularly make an emergency stop because someone looks at their smartphone instead of traffic.”

The program is in its trial phase and the test strips are located at an intersection close to three schools. While some people think the lights are only encouraging distracted walking habits, one town official says he believes it is time to take a proactive step in keeping the public safe.

“The lure of social media, games, WhatsApp and music is great, and it comes at the expense of paying attention to traffic,” town alderman Kees Oskam said in a statement. “As a government, we probably can’t reverse this trend, but we can anticipate problems.”

The reactions on social media have been mixed, with some people saying these pedestrians are putting themselves at risk.

While others online don’t see the harm in added public safety measures.