How to Stop Jaywalking? Rude Slogans Work Best, Chinese University Study Says

June 16, 2015 Updated: June 16, 2015

In China’s densely-populated metropolises, jaywalking is a daily headache for commuters and civil servants alike. Often through force of numbers, people break red lights and cross despite the absence of crosswalks, leading to worsened traffic and more accidents.

In a social experiment recently conducted by a team of Chinese university students, they found that putting up signs shaming the jaywalkers was the most effective.

The students, from the Xiamen University in southeast China’s Fujian Province, made use of three different signs at the same street crossing at varying times, according to the state-run Xiamen Daily Online. The intersection has a pedestrian bridge, but many ignore this edifice and cross instead.

The signs: “Please take the bridge,” “It only takes extra 9.4 seconds to take the bridge,” and “If you’re ugly, you jaywalk.”

A control test, without any signage, showed that 70 percent of pedestrians jaywalked at the intersection, according to the report.

The sign reading “Please take the bridge,” had very little effect, yielding only a 0.24 percent decrease. The sign “It only takes extra 9.4 seconds to take the bridge” did better, dropping the percentage of jaywalkers to 61 percent.

Curiously, the rudest slogan “If you’re ugly, you jaywalk” was the most successful. Only 40.12 percent of pedestrians jaywalked, a nearly 30 percent decrease from the control figure.

“These days, many slogans are little more than formality and we are skeptical of their effectiveness. This is why us instructors and students conducted this experiment,” said Professor Lin, the advisor of the Xiamen University team.

Netizens have reacted variously to the results of the study. Some support the direct signage; others say it harms civil society.

One comment, gaining over 400 likes, reads “It shows the value Chinese place on saving face. Under the beautiful appearance, though, there’s often an ugly heart!”