Walkie, no talkie: Japanese city bans phones for pedestrians

A man walks past a sign that reads in Japanese “The use of cell phones while walking is prohibited” in Yamato Town, Kanagawa Prefecture. AFP

A Tokyo suburb on Wednesday imposed the world’s first ban on a habit – pedestrians glued to their phone screens as they walk, sometimes dangerously oblivious to their surroundings.

Visitors arriving at the station in Yamato town were greeted with banners announcing the new ban, which applies to all walking on public roads, squares and parks in the neighborhood.

“The use of smartphones while walking is prohibited. Please use your smartphones after you stop walking, ”warned travelers in a recorded female voice.

There is no punishment for those who cannot tear themselves away from their screens in the street, but the suburb of 240,000 inhabitants wants to use the ordinance to highlight the dangers of scrolling while walking.

The unusual move appeared to enjoy broad support from citizens, young and old, with very few people on the streets of Yamato spotted breaking the new rule.

“I often see people using cell phones while walking. They don’t pay attention to the things around them. The elderly may not be able to dodge them, ”said Kenzo Mori, 64.

“Using a cell phone is addictive. . . People seem to think that they can’t stop looking at their mobile and that they must feel connected with friends all the time, ”he told AFP.

Teenager Arika Ina said she often saw people staring at their screens while walking and thought the habit was dangerous.

But she said people should walk around without being enslaved to their phones out of decency, and questioned the need for legislation.

“I don’t think we need a prescription to ban it. You can stop it by being a little more careful, ”said the 17-year-old.

Research by Japanese mobile phone giant NTT Docomo Inc in 2014 found that pedestrians lost 95% of their field of vision while looking at a smartphone.

The company performed a computer simulation of what would happen if 1,500 people crossed the road in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo – the world’s busiest crosswalk – while simultaneously looking at their smartphones.

The results showed that two-thirds would not pass to the other side without incident, with 446 person-to-person collisions and 103 people being knocked down.


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