It is one of the trendiest cities in the world, at the forefront of hip living – Antwerp, the most populous city in Belgium and home to one of the largest ports in the world, has its pulse of what it means to be modern and cool.
You can get a sense of this with its latest fad – pedestrian lanes for residents who can’t help but walk, talk and text at the same time. It sounds a little too avant-garde, but we have all been there – either tumbling into someone while busy reading something funny or finding someone crash into us for the same reason.
Well, now there is a solution – like cyclists get their own lane for their own safety as well as that of other motorists, so too do texters now get their own space to cut down on instances of collisions that come from busy smartphone addicts.
Presently, the scheme is a temporary one, with the brains behind it keen to see whether it has a notable impact in the city. Interestingly, the text identifying the lane is marked in English. The idea for it first came from a smartphone enterprise called Mlab.
Speaking to Yahoo News recently, a spokesperson for the tech hub said: "Everyone 'textwalks'. You probably walk through the streets while texting or sending Whatsapp messages to your friends and don't really pay attention to your surroundings – only to whatever is happening on your screen.
“This causes collisions with poles or other pedestrians. You could, unknowingly, even be endangering your own life while you 'textwalk' when you cross the street without looking up.”
Last year, a study from the University of Queensland, titled Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implications for Safety, found there is a lot of danger associated with walking and texting.
Published in the journal PLOS One, the paper noted how a third of respondents – mainly young people – had been involved in an accident of sorts while playing with their device and meandering through a busy street.
“Although evidence of negative effects of mobile phone use on gait is scarce, cognitive distraction, altered mechanical demands, and the reduced visual field associated with texting are likely to have an impact,” the abstract of the fascinating study stated.
“While writing text, participants walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and used less neck ROM [range of motion] than reading text.
“Although the arms and head moved with the thorax to reduce relative motion of the phone and facilitate reading and texting, movement of the head in global space increased and this could negatively impact the balance system.”
The challenge is whether text-walkers are able to spot the lane – and stay in it – while multitasking. For now though, it is a cool idea from a trendy city that could have a hugely positive impact on the health and wellbeing of its residents and visitors.