Utah Valley University
A stairway in the Student Life amp Wellness Center at Utah Valley University calls attention to multitasking students who text while walking

Sign of the Times: "Texting lane" on university stairway gets huge response

June 19, 2015
Texters, keep right.

Texters, keep right.

To avoid collisions between student smartphone users with their eyes glued to a screen instead of where they're walking, Utah Valley University in Orem has attempted a lighthearted traffic-control approach. They have divided a stairway in the Student Life & Wellness Center into three distinct lanes: left for walking, center for running, and right for texting.

The university's marketing & communications department, encouraged to enhance the wellness center’s design through the use of art and graphics, established the lanes as a whimsical way to connect with students.

"The design was meant for people to laugh at rather than a real attempt to direct traffic flow,” says Matt Bambrough, the university's creative director.

The notion of inattentive cellphone users causing traffic snafus seems to have struck a nerve. A photograph of the demarcated stairway has gone viral--no doubt a lot of students came it across it while scrolling through items on their smartphones. As a result, Utah Valley is garnering its share of local, national and international attention.

“When you have 18- to 24-year-olds walking on campus glued to their smartphones, you’re almost bound to run into someone somewhere; it’s the nature of the world we live in,” says Bambrough. “But that isn’t the reason we did it — we used that fact to engage our students, to catch their attention and to let them know we are aware of who they are and where they’re coming from.

As for managing actual traffic flow, the evidence indicates that students are not heeding the assigned stairway divisions.

"This graphic is obviously more aesthetic than functional," Bambrough says, "and though we’ve noticed that most texters aren’t actually following the posted lanes, they are enjoying walking to their workout space.”

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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