Greater Greater Washington

A "no cellphones" express walking lane appeared on a DC sidewalk. What's the story?

A curious thing appeared on a downtown DC sidewalk this week: Dedicated lanes for pedestrians talking on cellphones, with an express lane to the side for everyone else.


Photo by Rob Pegoraro on Flickr.

The lanes aren't a half-baked experiment from DDOT. They're actually a stunt from National Geographic.

National Geographic workers added the sidewalk lanes on 18th Street NW between K and L streets, with permission from DDOT, to film people's reactions for an upcoming TV show about human behavior.

Film crews recorded pedestrians' reactions for several hours yesterday. The most common reaction seemed to be curiosity, but according to Yahoo! Tech columnist Rob Pegoraro, the new lanes did inspire many people to move to one side or the other.

This might have drawn inspiration from a "tourist lane" New York-based group Improv Everywhere painted on a Manhattan sidewalk in 2010.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his blog posts represent only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives car-free in Washington. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post

Comments

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Thanks for the shout-out! Couple of follow-ups:

• A reader tweeted that the NatGeo episode might also have taken the idea from an "E-Lanes" April Fool's setup by Philadelphia in 2012: http://phillymotu.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/the-e-lane-pilot-the-video/

• Correlation not being causation and all that, I can't confirm that the lanes persuaded the people I saw to go one way or the other. Those pedestrians might also have really liked the blank masonry wall that lines most of the west side of that block of 18th Street.

- RP

by Rob Pegoraro on Jul 18, 2014 3:26 pm • linkreport

This should implemented throughout the district. I get so tired of having to negotiate around oblivious people with their heads down (in their device) and their ears plugged(by their headphones). I've recently decided I'm not going to move anymore. I just plow my 230 lb. frame right into them.

Interestingly....it's kinda hard to tell, but from the pick, it looks like they put the "cell phone: walk at your own risk" lane closest to the street, where a oblivious cell phone walking zombie is more likely to walk into a bus.

Brilliant!

Wonder if these lanes will appear in subway stations....with cell phone lanes designated directly adjacent to the tracks?

by Eric B on Jul 19, 2014 3:46 am • linkreport

Courtland Milloy et. al. will demand that the law be enforced against cell-phone lane scofflaws. What's next, cell-phone and non-cell escalators on hills? ;-)

by Dave G on Jul 19, 2014 5:19 am • linkreport

@Eric B: Nope, the phone-use lanes were on the west edge of the sidewalk, flush against the building.

by Rob Pegoraro on Jul 19, 2014 11:46 am • linkreport

@RP: Darn! I got excited there for a minute.

by Eric B on Jul 19, 2014 12:30 pm • linkreport

Love it!

by asffa on Jul 19, 2014 10:34 pm • linkreport

I've laid out more than a couple of cell phone walkers on their rears over the past few years. Dip your shoulder and aim for the center of their mass.

I'm not the least bit sorry.

by Breastaurant on Jul 20, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

@Breastaurant - Courtland Milloy would be proud of you.

by Dave G on Jul 20, 2014 4:50 pm • linkreport

Wow.

by Neil Flanagan on Jul 20, 2014 5:34 pm • linkreport

I couldn't care less. Personal desire to walk and text vs my safety? BAM! On your kiester mister.

by Breastaurant on Jul 20, 2014 11:08 pm • linkreport

Breastaurant, I hope the next time you do that, somebody trips you.

by Ryan on Jul 21, 2014 12:02 am • linkreport

I'll think of you Ryan the next time that happens

by Breastaurant on Jul 21, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

How about a "tourist only zone" in the Metro stations.
Would certainly make commuters lives easier!

by Ann on Jul 21, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

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