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Texting while walking: Utah college creates special stairway lane

There is a solution for students who are not mindful of others on the stairway. If they find themselves unable to tear themselves away from their smartphone on the stairs, they can at least move over to the slow lane.

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Utah Valley University has introduced separate marked lanes for cell phone users on its stairways.

University Marketing & Communications/UVU

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If you’re texting while taking the stairs, there’s a lane for you at Utah Valley University. 

Since June 7, the university has divided the stairway on its Student Life and Wellness Center into three lanes, for walking, running, and texting. The photos of the stairway have been shared widely on social media this week. “When you have 18- to 24-year-olds walking on campus glued to their smartphones, you’re almost bound to run into someone somewhere; it’s the nature of the world we live in,” said Matt Bambrough, the university’s creative director in a blog post.

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Bamrough said the design was meant for a laugh and not a real attempt to direct traffic flow. “We used that fact to engage our students, to catch their attention and to let them know we are aware of who they are and where they’re coming from,” Bambrough said.

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Last year, a team of researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia found that smartphone use while walking makes people more likely to dawdle, weave, and possibly lose their balance.

Lanes specially designated for people who want to walk as they use their cell phones have been featured on TV programs and in advertising. Text-while-walking lanes were recently spotted in Antwerp, Belgium as a marketing stunt for a cell phone chain store. Last fall, the Internet was agog with news of text walking lanes in the Chinese city of Chongqing. The lane, which is dedicated to pedestrians who are glued on their phones, was rolled out in a theme park called Foreigner Street.

Meanwhile, pranksters in New York may have found another solution to the problem. Wearing jackets labeled ‘Seeing Eye People,” they used leashes to guide people in the streets who were engrossed in their cell phones.  

Other than walking slower and not able to walk in a straight line, more studies on text walking indicate that more than half of all cell phone owners have experienced "distracted walking," bumping into something or someone, according to recent Pew research. Last December, a female tourist in Australia had to be rescued by police after walking off a pier while browsing on her phone.

The unveiling of a texting stairway lane for Utah Valley University students is an idea that may just become a trend in the future as the number of cell phone owners continues to surge.