Residents walk on a lane painted with instructions to separate those using their phones as they walk from others in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality Image Credit: AP

Beijing: Taking a cue from an American TV programme, the Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, seemingly offering a path for those too engrossed in messaging and tweeting to watch where they’re going.

But the property manager says it’s intended to be ironic — to remind people that it’s dangerous to tweet while walking the street.

“There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cellphone may cause unnecessary collisions here,” said Nong Cheng, the marketing official with Meixin Group, which manages the area in the city’s entertainment zone.

Meixin has marked a 50-metre stretch of pavement with two lanes: one that prohibits cellphone use next to one that allows pedestrians to use them — at their “own risk.”

Nong said the idea came from a similar stretch of pavement in Washington D.C. created by National Geographic Television in July as part of a behaviour experiment.

She said that pedestrians were not taking the new lanes seriously, but that many were snapping pictures of the signs and sidewalk.

“Those using their cellphones, of course, have not heeded the markings on the pavement,” she said. “They don’t notice them.”

A sign claims it is the first such lane in China, but it is believed to be the first permanent one in the world.

There is a thick white line separating it from the rest of the walkway, and arrows painted on the ground to act as guides for those distracted by their screens.

A similar project was set up in Washington DC in July, but it was just a temporary publicity stunt.

— With inputs from agencies