University of Alberta takes groundup approach to preventing distracted walking


It’s a sight so common, particularly among younger people, that the University of Alberta has decided to do something about it: people texting while walking.

The university is now testing a $2,500 pilot program aimed at improving pedestrian safety through decals promoting road awareness. And since people texting as they walk are almost inevitably looking down, the university has tailored its approach to accommodate that reality: the decals are plastered on the ground.

“I think it’s a good heads up,” University of Alberta student Kaylee Zawyrucha said Tuesday. “I mean, when you’re looking down at your phone, it’s right there – so you see it right away.”

WATCH: How distracted are people when they are walking and texting?

The campaign is called Heads Up and has seen 16 decals plastered at intersections across the university’s campus.

“Our worry is that they’re going to walk out into traffic and we’re going to have a pedestrian being run over,” Bill Spinks, the University of Alberta’s director of protective services, said.

According to Spinks, the idea for the campaign came from a similar initiative undertaken at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He said as far as he knows, this is the first campaign of its kind at a post-secondary institution in Canada.

“The message says, basically, ‘make sure you’re not texting while you’re walking,”” he said. “Take a look up and you’ll realize you’re about to enter a crosswalk.”

READ MORE: Ontario nixes Toronto proposal to ban texting and walking

“For me it’s not too much of a big deal,” University of Alberta student Rigel Chan said. “I guess for other people it might be because they’re always looking down. If they notice it, it’s just a gentle reminder.”

The University of Alberta is testing a $2,500 pilot program aimed at improving pedestrian safety through decals promoting road awareness.

Sarah Kraus/ Global News

“We’ve incorporated our mascot,” Spinks added. “We wanted it to be a friendly message, but a serious message.”

According to university officials, the decals have been so well received, they’d like to see them at every campus intersection next year.

-With files from Sarah Kraus.