Like Commandante Atrios, I don’t play around with my cell phone when I’m a pedestrian, especially in D.C. (which is far more dangerous for pedestrians compared to Boston. Really). But this approach to solve the problem seems doomed to failure (boldface mine):
Pedestrians listening to music, texting, talking or otherwise absorbed in their phones are making themselves more vulnerable by tuning out traffic around them, experts say. While there is little hard data on the problem, safety experts say there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. Many say they think smartphone distractions are at least partly to blame for the number of pedestrian fatalities beginning to rise again in 2010 after years of holding steady or declining slightly….
In the Washington region, pedestrian deaths as a percentage of all traffic fatalities grew from 20 percent in 2005 to 24 percent in 2013, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments….
Allan Williams, a transportation consultant to the governors group and other safety organizations, said data showing the link between cellphone use and pedestrian collisions is limited. He said one study found that distracted walking accounts for about 4 percent of pedestrian injuries….
Safety experts say they’re not trying to cast blame. They note that studies show drivers cause about half of all pedestrian collisions by speeding, running red lights, making illegal turns and blowing through crosswalks. Many also note that more can be done to make roads, particularly wider streets in the suburbs, safer for pedestrians by improving crosswalk markings, installing flashing signals that alert drivers to pedestrians in the road, lowering speed limits, and building raised “refuge island” medians where pedestrians can stop halfway.
Sure, one shouldn’t be a fucking idiot while crossing the street. But guess what? People are always fucking idiots; this is one of the few constants in life. What makes the situation dangerous isn’t the phone, but the car and how fast it’s going. Waiting for the evolution of the New Urban Person is like waiting for Godot–we’re going to be here for a while. Instead of expecting a cultural shift, build a transportation system that is pedestrian-friendly–and, yes, that will come at the expense of drivers.
As I’ve noted before, the issue is how many people should be hit so drivers can get to where they’re going five minutes faster? The problem is rarely phrased that way though. Odd, that….