2019-10-07 10:39:40

A city in eastern China wants pedestrians to look both ways — and only both ways — when crossing the street, threatening smartphone addicts with fines of up to 50 yuan ($7) for checking their phones or other mobile devices in traffic.

The new rules, approved by Jiaxing city leaders in August and ratified by the Zhejiang provincial People’s Congress late last month, are aimed at promoting “civilized behavior.” In addition to the above-mentioned restriction on mobile device use, the list of prohibited actions also includes throwing garbage out of car windows; sloppy or illicit parking; and making a commotion in public spaces like libraries, museums, and movie theaters.

But it was the rules targeting ditouzu, or the “lowered-heads tribe,” that attracted the bulk of the attention — and support — after Jiaxing’s decision went viral over the weekend. On popular microblogging platform Weibo, a hashtag related to the policy had 52 million views by time of publication, with many calling the fines “a great idea.”

“Absolutely support it! We can’t allow an individual’s lack of safety awareness to harm drivers and their families,” reads one upvoted comment. Some suggested adopting the policy nationwide, while others argued a 50 yuan fine was not enough to deter potential rulebreakers.

While the majority of reactions were supportive, some users questioned whether the city was being reasonable. “If both pedestrians and drivers are all following the traffic lights, who cares if people are looking at their phones while crossing the street?” asked one.

Jiaxing is not the only city dealing with distracted pedestrians. This January, Wenzhou City, also in Zhejiang province, banned a number of “behaviors affecting other vehicles or pedestrians,” including certain categories of phone use. Later that month, the city’s decision to fine a pedestrian 10 yuan for using her mobile phone while crossing the street drew widespread applause from netizens.

In May 2017, a motorcycle passenger died after colliding with a jaywalker in China’s southern Guangdong province. Surveillance camera footage showed the jaywalker looking at his phone while crossing the street, and he ultimately paid 200,000 yuan in compensation to the deceased’s family and was given a 10-month suspended sentence.

Editor: Kilian O’Donnell

(Header image: A man looks at his mobile phone while crossing the road in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, Jan. 16, 2019. Zjsight/IC)