Authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan have recently equipped busy intersections with automatic pedestrian gates that only open when the traffic light turns green. The measure is aimed at preventing jaywalking, which has become a serious problem in many urban centers across China.
Chinese officials have been cracking down on jaywalkers for years. Jaywalking in the Asian country, often referred to as “Chinese-style street crossing”, often involves pedestrians completely ignoring traffic signals and crossing busy streets and roads, usually in large groups. This contributes heavily to traffic jams and bottlenecks in busy Chinese cities, and fines haven’t proven as effective a deterrent as authorities had hoped.
In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a variety of bizarre measures meant to deter jaywalking, including shaming offenders by making them wear green caps, painting red lines on the pavement to make people think twice before crossing a road, or placing injured mannequins and white crosses on roads to highlight the danger jaywalking are exposing themselves to. These haven’t been working too well either.
Now, traffic officials in Wuhan, China’s Hubei province, are trying a different approach – stopping people from jaywalking in busy intersections with the helps of automated pedestrian gates, the kind you normally see at subway stations. For now, they have only been installed on either side of several pedestrian crossing, but if they prove effective, authorities plan to have them installed all around the city.
The gates only allow pedestrians to cross the road when the traffic light turns green, and close as the red light comes on. But what prevents people from just going around the gates, or just jumping over them as they do at the subway ticketing stations, right? Well officials have considered that possibility as well, and have announced that surveillance cameras above the gates monitor activity at all times, and offenders will be shamed by having their faces displayed on digital billboards in the area.
Jaywalking has often been described as a cultural problem in China, with citizens displaying a complete lack of principles and total disregard for the law. Others claim that authorities and infrastructure are to blame. Chinese writer Yuan Xiaobin told Quartz that in Germany traffic lights are programmed to last no longer than 60 seconds, which is the amount of time studies found that German residents would wait to cross the street,, but in China they can last for up to 90 seconds. And when the light does turn green for pedestrians, there’s no telling if the cars will actually allow them to cross.
The measure may prove to be very expensive, especially if one commenter’s prediction comes true. “”Someone might take away the turnstile and sell it for scrap metal,” he joked.