Pedestrians have enjoyed the right-of-way for too long, the city of Philadelphia has decided. Now, the city is fining those who text while walking without paying attention to the road ahead.
Philly’s decision to fine texting pedestrians stems from a broader city program called “Give Respect, Get Respect,” which is mainly aimed at bicyclists who ride on sidewalks, run red lights and cruise down the wrong side of the street. But the city has also decided that pedestrians aren’t giving enough respect of their own. Police had been handing out mostly warnings since the program began in May, but now they’re cracking down with fines of up to $120 per citation, CBS Philly reports.
I’ll be the first one to complain about pedestrians who are oblivious to the road around them — I had a car in Manhattan; it was miserable — but a couple things about this measure strike me as odd.
First, shouldn’t jaywalking cover this? If pedestrians walk into the street without waiting for a signal, they are violating a traffic law. But if a pedestrian gets clipped by a passing bicyclist while legally crossing the street, the bicyclist was probably running a red light or failing to obey a stop sign on the adjacent corner. And if a pedestrian and bicyclist collide on the sidewalk, the rider should be at fault for not using a bike lane.
Second, why is cellphone use specifically called out? Aren’t pedestrians just as oblivious if they walk down the street while eating, reading a paper, or having an intense conversation with another pedestrian? It seems the bigger issue here is being distracted and not paying attention to surroundings. Technology just makes for a convenient scapegoat.
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