How Smartphones Advance the Ministry of Silly Walks Political Agenda

Science Pinpoints Why Phone-Using Pedestrians Look Silly

Getty Images / Ian Gavan

Cell phones are such a big part of our lives, that the technology is changing the way we perform basic tasks, such as walking down the street. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the devastating effects of texting while driving, but scientists have also discovered that texting while walking is presenting its own issues. In order to keep themselves from tripping or smashing into things, texters are taking a page out of Monty Python’s playbook and making over-the-top strides to avoid hazards.

Silly walks were all the rage in the 1970’s television series Monty Python’s Flying Circus. In a popular comedy sketch featured on the show, a fictitious agency — known as the Ministry of Silly Walks — is pushing a comical agenda. Civil servants within the agency are doling out grant money to help citizens develop their own unique silly walk. However, research has shown that people don’t need grants to develop silly walks, they just need to walk down the street.

Walking around with your head down, looking at your phone is the norm these days. But most people don’t realize the subconscious ways it’s changing the way we move and react. In order to delve deeper into how cell phones are affecting us, the University of Delaware asked 22 volunteers to walk on a treadmill for two minutes while dialing a number on their phone.

Participants were outfitted with 62 reflective markers on the arms, trunk, pelvis and legs which were picked up by motion cameras to measure several common walking motions including knee flexion, hip movement, and leg swing.

The results — which were published in the Journal of Motor Behavior — indicated that the participants developed exaggerated strides that would make Jim Cleese proud. Researchers speculate that these movements were to avoid tripping hazards and could even help the walker navigate large crowds and reduce the risk of falling.

Belgium created special walking lanes for texters. 


Text-walkers (yes there’s an actual term for it) have become such a problem that in places like Antwerp, Belgium officials have created designated “texting lanes” so distracted pedestrians won’t injure themselves or anyone around them. Many mobile phones have sustained screen damage during collisions between distracted walkers. If you live in a location devoid of texting-only lanes, try putting your phone down until you’re in a less crowded area.

Cell phones are a necessity in today’s society, but these handy little devices can also be detrimental to our health. In addition to altering our gait, other recent studies have shown that constantly looking down at your phone can cause neck pain and the blue light emitted by your device could be keeping you up at night.