A Tokyo suburb on Wednesday imposed the first ban in Japan on a habit observed around the world: pedestrians glued to their phone screen while walking, sometimes dangerously oblivious to their surroundings.
Visitors arriving at Yamato City station were greeted with banners announcing the new ban, which applies to all walking on public roads, squares and parks in the neighborhood.
“It is forbidden to use smartphones while walking. Please use your smartphones after you stop walking,” a recorded female voice warned travelers. 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 they can’t stop looking at their cellphones and they must feel connected with friends all the time,” he said. to 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 an order 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 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.