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City gives in to people who text and walk, embeds traffic lights in sidewalk

Technically Incorrect: In Augsburg, Germany they decide nothing could be done about phone-obsessed pedestrians. So, they pander to them.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


The floor lights say: "Stop."

Augsburger Allgemeine/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

If you've never pondered the difference between New Jersey and, say, Augsburg in Germany, now is as good a time as you'll ever have.

In recent weeks, the former has seen a bill proposed that would ban texting and walking.

The latter has decided to take the road less traveled.

As the Washington Post reports, the burgermeisters of Augsburg have taken pity on all those who walk along while staring at their screens. They've installed traffic lights in the sidewalks, so that the walkers don't ever need to look up.

Yes, lights in the concrete. Yes, on the ground. Yes, the world has gone charmingly potty. (You can see the lights in action here.)

Tradition has it that Germans like to follow rules. But how can they see and obey traffic signals when their heads are permanently bent toward Facebook?

Embedding traffic lights in the ground is a far more draconian measure than, as one or two cities have tried, giving texting walkers their own lanes.

Somehow, I worry. I fancy that many texting walkers notice nothing but their screens. I wonder if these ground-lights will enter their consciousness at all.

However, an Augsburg city spokeswoman told Germany's N-TV that the lights create "a whole new level of attention."

Oh, perhaps in Germany. I wonder if it might be the same elsewhere. They're not called zombie texters for nothing, are they? (In Germany, this is shortened to "smombie.")

We enjoy stories of walking texters who fall into mall fountains and even into Lake Michigan.

However, the Augsburg lights were prompted by the death of a 15-year-old who was texting and walking as she crossed railway tracks. She was hit by a train and killed.

The Local reports that the floor-level traffic lights have been placed near a couple of tram stops. They flash red when a tram is approaching.

I wonder if they'll try something this constructive in New Jersey.