WALK­ING WAKE- UP CALL

Al­der­men in­tro­duce or­di­nance that would fine ‘ dis­tracted walk­ers’

Chicago Sun-Times - - CITY BEAT - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN City Hall Re­porter Email: fspiel­man@ sun­times. com Twit­ter: @ fspiel­man

How many times have you crossed the street, only to bump into some­one who has their face buried in their cell­phone?

It won’t hap­pen much longer if two of Chicago’s most pow­er­ful al­der­men have any­thing to say about it.

Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed­ward Burke ( 14th) and Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee Chair­man An­thony Beale ( 9th) want to discourage “dis­tracted walk­ing” be­hav­ior by slap­ping those pedes­tri­ans with hefty fines.

A first of­fense would cost you $ 90. The fine for re­peated of­fenses would rise to a whop­ping $ 500.

The or­di­nance states: “No per­son shall cross a street or high­way while us­ing a mo­bile elec­tronic de­vice in a man­ner that averts their vis­ual at­ten­tion to that de­vice or that de­vice’s ac­tiv­ity.”

It de­fines “mo­bile elec­tronic de­vice” as “any hand­held or other portable elec­tronic equip­ment ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing wire­less and/ or data com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween two or more per­sons or of pro­vid­ing amuse­ment.” Those amuse­ments “in­clude” but are not limited to “a mo­bile tele­phone, mo­bile gam­ing de­vice, text mes­sag­ing de­vice, pag­ing de­vice, per­sonal dig­i­tal as­sis­tant, lap­top com­puter, video game or dig­i­tal pho­to­graphic de­vice.”

The crack­down would not ap­ply to law en­force­ment of­fi­cers or emer­gency per­son­nel “when on duty and act­ing in their of­fi­cial ca­pac­i­ties.” Nor would it ap­ply to peo­ple “us­ing a tele­phone to call 911 or other emer­gency tele­phone num­bers to con­tact emer­gency or law en­force­ment per­son­nel.”

Dur­ing the first six months of this year, 27 pedes­tri­ans were killed on the streets of Chicago. There were 28 pedes­trian deaths dur­ing the same pe­riod a year ago.

In a press re­lease, Burke pointed to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s claim that peo­ple who text and walk are “nearly four times more likely to en­gage in at least one dan­ger­ous ac­tion” in­clud­ing jay­walk­ing and ne­glect­ing to look both ways.

Dis­tracted pedes­tri­ans also take “18 per­cent more time to cross the street” than fo­cused pedes­tri­ans, Burke said.

Beale added that City Council pas­sage of the or­di­nance and en­force­ment of it by po­lice would “in­crease safety by elim­i­nat­ing dis­trac­tions for pedes­tri­ans at in­ter­sec­tions and else­where” across the city.

Chicago would join a dis­tracted walk­ing band­wagon that al­ready in­cludes Honolulu and San Ma­teo County, Cal­i­for­nia. The state of Cal­i­for­nia is ex­pected to con­sider a ban in Jan­uary. New York City is step­ping up its ef­forts to ed­u­cate pedes­tri­ans about the dan­gers of “dis­tracted walk­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Burke, Chicago Po­lice of­fi­cers strug­gling to con­trol homi­cides and shoot­ings would be charged with is­su­ing dis­tracted walk­ing tick­ets.

But when po­lice of­fi­cers were given sim­i­lar power to ticket mo­torists for talk­ing on their cell­phones while driv­ing, they didn’t do it, blam­ing com­pli­ca­tions of a new state law.

Maybe that’s why Mayor Rahm Emanuel is with­old­ing judg­ment, even as he ac­knowl­edged that dis­tracted walk­ing is an epi­demic.

“Ev­ery­body does it, and ev­ery­body is ir­ri­tated when some­body else does it,” the mayor said.

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