it's the cars, stupid!
September 4, 2019 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Report: Texting While Walking Isn't The Scourge It's Made Out To Be

Two years ago, lawmakers in Albany decided it'd be a worthwhile use of state power to compel the New York City Department of Transportation to study the "dangers of pedestrians being distracted by use of a mobile device." That report was released by the DOT late last week, confirming what transportation experts already knew to be true: texting while walking poses an all but negligible hazard to pedestrians, especially compared to the myriad actual threats of crossing city streets.

posted by poffin boffin (104 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Was the study linked in the article? I somehow missed it. The fact that the article doesn't mention cyclists at all is a little concerning, it was only when I was riding a bike in NYC that I found myself under constant threat of death from people who were walking with their faces buried in their phones.
posted by saladin at 10:21 AM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


In general, yeah, it's not dangerous. It's really, really fucking annoying, though.
posted by holborne at 10:25 AM on September 4, 2019 [23 favorites]


So, motor vehicle operators claim bad behavior of other road users is a threat, but it's proven to be their own behavior at fault?

I'm shocked! SHOCKED, I say!
posted by MrGuilt at 10:26 AM on September 4, 2019 [41 favorites]


Yeah, I found as a cyclist it's more of a problem as well. If they're not looking, maybe they're listening and that cues them into the presence of a car, but not so much a bike. (Or an EV I guess.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:26 AM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


hm i thought the report was linked in the article? bc how did i read it otherwise.

anyway it's here

oh it was linked in the daily news article that i didn't use
posted by poffin boffin at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


They found just .2 percent of reports made any mention of pedestrians using electronic devices.

These people were probably too embarrassed to report what they did.
posted by sfenders at 10:31 AM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Ortiz told Gothamist he "completely disagree[d]" with both the methodology and the conclusions of the study. "We have to look at their sampling," he said. "I would tell you this much: if you interview drivers like I have, you're going to find out that they're frustrated...at pedestrians when they see them talking on the phone."

And if you interview pedestrians, what would you find frustrates them? Why does Ortiz privilege the driver's perspective over pedestrians?

I know, our entire society privileges drivers over every other way of getting around. But maybe it's worth asking the question to actually try to make people think about their perspective.
posted by nubs at 10:34 AM on September 4, 2019 [51 favorites]


Parties immune to criticism if they victimize poor people: police, drivers.

Basically, drivers are annoyed because pedestrians are too busy looking at their phones (newspapers, books) to defer to giving them right of way and letting them break traffic laws. They're not even shy about it.
posted by explosion at 10:36 AM on September 4, 2019 [25 favorites]


It's really, really fucking annoying, though.

Turn it into a game! When you're walking on a collision course with someone texting, say "heads up!" to get their attention, but try to say it late enough that in their moment of confusion, they walk into you anyway. It's actually pretty hard.
posted by ryanrs at 10:37 AM on September 4, 2019 [12 favorites]


god knows when i am blithely piloting a 2 ton machine of death, the thing that bothers me the most is having to pay attention to my surroundings at all times! what an unfair and unreasonable expectation!
posted by poffin boffin at 10:41 AM on September 4, 2019 [83 favorites]


Following publication of this story, Ortiz told Gothamist he "completely disagree[d]" with both the methodology and the conclusions of the study. "We have to look at their sampling," he said. "I would tell you this much: if you interview drivers like I have, you're going to find out that they're frustrated...at pedestrians when they see them talking on the phone."

Yeah, I'd like to compare methodologies here, too, that of using verifiable data compared to Ortiz chatting with people.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:50 AM on September 4, 2019 [17 favorites]


This reminds me of how people think it's extremely weird that I can read a book (or phone, I guess) while walking. I'm not hiking up a mountain, I'm going down a sidewalk. It's not that hard!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:57 AM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Yeah you're damn right I text and email as I'm walking down the sidewalk. It is so easy to maintain situational awareness when you're walking and looking at a phone that... I almost think people who complain about this are joking? Making things up? I don't know. I just know that I have no problem at all navigating around people, strollers, dogs, construction barriers, whatever, when I'm reading my phone. To be fair the sidewalks are much more crowded in cities like Chicago and NYC, so maybe I wouldn't be able to do it there.

I do, however, have a policy of putting the phone down and looking both ways while I'm crossing a street. I also try to make eye contact with any stopped drivers (or bikers) who I'm crossing in front of. Like, in theory the cars have to stop for me, but if they don't, I'm in a lot more trouble than they are. Is this enough for people who hate text-and-walkers, or is it that you must not look at your phone unless standing still?
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:58 AM on September 4, 2019 [9 favorites]


The incidence of distracted locomotion due to phones is likely similar across all common modes (walking, cycling, scootering, driving) What differentiates their impact is the likelihood of the distracted party inflicting grave bodily harm if and when they collide with another party.

In other news, everybody thinks that they can phone and (walk/cycle/drive/rocketship) without becoming a hazard. Everybody is wrong.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:00 AM on September 4, 2019 [35 favorites]


... sorry, also meant to add: if you notice someone who is incompetent and/or rude in their walking and texting such that they run into you or cause another disturbance, maybe call out that specific person rather than attributing the problem to a common behavior that many people engage in without issue. That's the main point. I don't dispute that some people are clumsy, stupid, or rude, but that's not unique to texting and walking.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:02 AM on September 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


I do, however, have a policy of putting the phone down and looking both ways while I'm crossing a street.

I think pretty much everybody who looks at their phone while walking does this, which is why the study found the results it did. Turns out people are pretty aware of the possibility of being killed by a two-ton death machine. If only the people controlling them had a similar awareness.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:04 AM on September 4, 2019 [26 favorites]


I find that people looking at their phone have a tendency to swerve back and forth (usually over a 2-3 ft wide swath of the sidewalk), and people texting / typing have a wider path. This is annoying, because on crowded sidewalks in NYC you may not be able to pass them easily, but it's not dangerous. But I don't get mad about it because I know I'm guilty of it sometimes, too (though I generally get to the side of the sidewalk if I need to text).

People cycling over the bridges need to put their phones away, though. They swerve just like pedestrians and the bike lanes are a lot narrower.
posted by thecaddy at 11:05 AM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


There have always been inattentive pedestrians. They were there before you got your license, they were there before cars, bikes, carts and horse riding. Inattentive pedestrians are grandfathered in. Setting aside those rare pedestrians, mostly made of straw, who hide and then leap in front of you, if you can't keep from hitting distracted walkers, it probably means you aren't driving/biking well enough.
posted by surlyben at 11:05 AM on September 4, 2019 [20 favorites]


In other news, everybody thinks that they can phone and (walk/cycle/drive/rocketship) without becoming a hazard. Everybody is wrong.

I actually strongly disagree with that. The first couple times I texted while driving, long before anyone made it illegal, I immediately thought "oh wow, this is a bad idea," and I quit. I have texted while driving literally twice in my entire life, and swore it off without any legal compulsion because it just seemed dangerous. Texting and walking is different.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:07 AM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


From the study:

Additionally, an in-depth review of the written crash narratives in New York City fatality reports from 2014 through 2017 suggests little evidence of pedestrian device involvement in citywide pedestrian fatalities. Records show two cases (0.2%) in which there was electronic device involvement, of 856 with available narratives. One pedestrian fatality in 2015 involved a pedestrian who was texting, and one fatality in 2014 involved a person reaching for a dropped mobile device. This lack of reported pedestrian device involvement is notable, as the crash reports rely largely on drivers’ accounts. In comparison, from 2014-2017, there were 112 pedestrian fatalities where vehicles failed to yield to pedestrians with the right of way (13%).

[...]

However, even if electronic device use is underreported, which it likely is, it appears to contribute to a smaller proportion of pedestrian fatalities and injuries than other documented factors. As published in the 2014 Vision Zero Action Plan, for 53% of pedestrian fatalities, dangerous driving choices such as speeding, inattention, and failure to yield are the main causes of the crash. When measured against these factors, it appears that distracted walking is a very minor contributor to pedestrian death and injury. Ultimately, interventions that lead to more responsible driving behavior are the key to driving down fatalities throughout the city.


That said, people tend to wildly overestimate their ability to multitask while walking (as they do with any other task), but pedestrians are not an existential threat to other road users, or even to themselves to the extent that some people claim in the face of the actual data, even if blaming that behaviour feels right to some people.

Like, in theory the cars have to stop for me, but if they don't, I'm in a lot more trouble than they are. Is this enough for people who hate text-and-walkers, or is it that you must not look at your phone unless standing still?

I'm not personally a fan of the practice and try to avoid it, but again, it's not an existential threat to other road users. To your point, I'd add: let's talk about pedestrians who have low or no vision, or people with limited mobility. Roads (and traffic laws and their attendant enforcement) need to be designed with the needs of the most vulnerable road users as the first and primary consideration. So even if more people were meeting their end while texting and walking, that should act as a proxy for how safe roads actually are for pedestrians. And at the end of the day, literally everyone is a pedestrian.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:13 AM on September 4, 2019 [14 favorites]


"Texting and walking is different."

It sure is. And most people are (probably) going to be bad at it. With the problems we see. Read books and walked home from school all the time, not difficult. It was for anybody else I knew.
posted by aleph at 11:17 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I actually strongly disagree with that. The first couple times I texted while driving, long before anyone made it illegal, I immediately thought "oh wow, this is a bad idea," and I quit. I have text while driving literally twice in my entire life, and swore it off without any legal compulsion because it just seemed dangerous. Texting and walking is different.

Same here! Texting and driving is an obviously terrible idea. There is no question that distracted driving of any sort - and particularly when it involves taking your eyes and at least one hand off the wheel - is many orders of magnitude more dangerous and around 100% more deadly than texting and walking.

That the report in the OP bears out almost no correlation between text-walking and fatalities does not mean that text-walking is a Very Good Idea. For background, I don't have a car. I drive occasionally but almost exclusively walk or take the bus. I also - bum bum bummmmmm - read my phone while I walk. I know in my heart of hearts that I shouldn't for a variety of reasons, mostly related to being aware of my surroundings, but phones be addictive, yo. The great thing about walking, though, is that it is very low speed activity which makes reacting quickly pretty easy even if you are distracted. So even if you are truly awful at texting and walking - and most people are going to be not that great at it - the consequences are, generally, really mild. Which is the point I was making in the first place.

So, you know, you do you, but don't labor under the delusion that you are really great at texting and walking. The reality is that you - and I - have been lucky.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:22 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


thecaddy: I find that people looking at their phone have a tendency to swerve back and forth (usually over a 2-3 ft wide swath of the sidewalk), and people texting / typing have a wider path. This is annoying, because on crowded sidewalks in NYC you may not be able to pass them easily, but it's not dangerous.

Yeah, exactly this. They also have a tendency to slow way down or stop altogether, sometimes in pedestrian chokepoints such as subway stairs or (my personal favorite) escalators. But, as thecaddy points out, it's not actually dangerous to anyone unless you figure in the non-zero chance that someone may become enraged by this behavior.
posted by slkinsey at 11:46 AM on September 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


Does this mean I'll have to stop screaming "LOOK UP!!!!" at the top of my lungs at every asshole who thinks they can expertly walk down the sidewalk reading, typing, watching manga or whatever other nonsense without weaving, stopping randomly, walking up the stairs at a crawl along with other anti-social behavior? Or can I keep that up? Because it's fun, and I'm pretty good at it, despite what you might think.
posted by nevercalm at 11:51 AM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


Someone tell Mayor John “Zero Vision” Tory and Toronto City Council, who just asked the province to ban pedestrian cellphone use.
posted by rodlymight at 11:55 AM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


I plan to start with the LOOK UP!!! thing.

Because when they are FaceTiming, for chrissakes, I can get two for the price of one.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:56 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Does this mean I'll have to stop screaming "LOOK UP!!!!"

I mean, you probably shouldn't do that anyway, as it seems like a needlessly aggressive and antisocial thing to do. But the study in question looked at vehicle-pedestrian interactions, not pedestrian-pedestrian interactions.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:58 AM on September 4, 2019 [12 favorites]


It's telling that they only mention pedestrian deaths due to cars, because they're very unlikely unless the pedestrian is walking against the light. Just about everyone walks more slowly when using a device. Many cease to walk in a straight line. They are distracted, the same as drivers attempting to multitask. A lot of them think the only time they need to pay attention is at a corner. Distracted pedestrians are continually walking into my path, and into things on the sidewalks, or falling down stairs (they're always so shocked!). I have to deal with this many times a day, and it's very annoying. Should it be illegal? Probably not, but it should be considered bad manners and antisocial in any dense environment.
posted by sensate at 11:59 AM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


Be careful about applying this study's conclusions to other cities. New York City is very safe for pedestrians, compared to other large US cities. In comparison, Phoenix is a death trap (as Angie Schmitt points out on Twitter: Who is getting killed while walking in America, a primer for journalists).
posted by mbrubeck at 12:08 PM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


I actually do the "Heads up!" thing when walking texters get within about a foot of me. Mostly they act like I'm the one causing the problem, even though I'm looking where I'm going on a crowded NYC sidewalk and they're, you know, not. Same with the people walking down a subway platform for the Manhattan-bound E train during the morning rush. In what universe these people are engaging in acceptable behavior, I'm not sure.
posted by holborne at 12:25 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Pretty cool how the thread turned from "this problem isn't actually a problem, according to actual science" to "I'm going to complain about this thing anyway because it FEELS like a problem to me".
posted by tobascodagama at 12:27 PM on September 4, 2019 [49 favorites]


the non-zero chance that someone may become enraged by this behavior.

Having read further, I think I'd have been slightly less flippant with my previous comment if I'd realized that people are actually getting all heated up over this, shouting at strangers who do it, passing laws against it, and so on. It's stupid, perhaps, to text while walking, but it's also slightly funny and almost entirely harmless. In city traffic, at least the pedestrian with head down and phone out isn't likely to suddenly jump in any random direction; they're quite predictable, slow-moving, and easy to avoid if you're driving. Probably more content than the average citizen to obey the traffic signals. Not remotely likely to injure anyone but themselves. Pity them, if you must, or laugh at them, but unless you're in a hurry walking somewhere in NYC, in which case I suppose it's normal to be very angry at everyone around you, I don't see why so many people feel the need to do more than that.
posted by sfenders at 12:29 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm so far gone on this issue my position is basically "ban all private motor vehicles from urban areas" "getting a license to operate a private motor vehicle should be at least as hard as getting one to operate a private plane and require minimum 3 year intervals of simulator re-testing" and "with all the money we save on not building so many fucking roads, let's build some god damn transit motherfuckers."

They never should have allowed them in town in the first place.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:33 PM on September 4, 2019 [25 favorites]


Pretty cool how the thread turned from "this problem isn't actually a problem, according to actual science" to "I'm going to complain about this thing anyway because it FEELS like a problem to me".

Cool? I thought you meant predictable.

Being an annoying pedestrian isn't necessarily unsafe, which the research tells us. I know it's fun to grouse about how annoying people texting or video chatting while walking it - heck, I have to ring my bell at people walking in the bike lane daily! - but andecdata isn't data. And yeah, we need to prioritize vulnerable road users (pedestrians) over others (drivers), no matter how annoying they might be.

September is Pedestrian Safety Month, by the way.
posted by kendrak at 12:34 PM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


Pretty cool how the thread turned from "this problem isn't actually a problem, according to actual science" to "I'm going to complain about this thing anyway because it FEELS like a problem to me".

The study, according to the article which doesn't link to it, says pedestrian fatalities in NYC caused by automobiles do not involve phone-distracted walking to any significant degree. That's it. Nobody in this thread is saying "WELL ACTUALLY PEDESTRIANS IN NYC ARE GETTING HIT BY CARS BECAUSE FACEBOOK."
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:35 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


getting a license to operate a mobile phone should be at least as hard as getting one to operate a private plane and require minimum 3 year intervals of simulator re-testing

Now *that* sounds like a good idea.
posted by sfenders at 12:38 PM on September 4, 2019


Yeah, I found as a cyclist it's more of a problem as well. If they're not looking, maybe they're listening and that cues them into the presence of a car, but not so much a bike.

back in my cycling days when I rode everywhere all the time, I learned that though cars and trucks and whatnot were a more obvious lethal threat, the incredibly stupid f***ing pedestrian was a magnitudes more common threat. And this was before texting. Somewhere along the line, its seems we forget what Elmer The Safety Elephant taught us and stop not just looking both ways, we don't look at all.
posted by philip-random at 12:57 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I guess this issue bothers me because it's another instance of (some group that there's more of than there used to be) not upholding our norms, the shared responsibility for the smooth operation of the city. To them, it's fine that it's now my responsibility that we don't collide. It manifests in all kinds of ways: people on the subway (on their phones, natch) who don't bother holding on to a pole and using other people as cushions when they lose their balance; people approaching a revolving door and not bothering to push because the other person will take care of it*; and, my favorite, staring at you and being visibly offended when you stare back at them.

I can't quite put my finger on what cause or worldview unites these shifts in behavior, but for those of us who internalized that it was everyone's responsibility to make the city work and not drive everyone crazy, it's disheartening.

*my wife has, on multiple occasions, seen when this is about to happen and simply not pushed herself, resulting in the phone zombie smashing face-first into the door.
posted by sensate at 1:27 PM on September 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


Walking and texting is a good way to get shoulder-checked by me if you're a DC tourist, which may be why we get a deserved reputation for being rude jerks.

Driving and texting should get your license suspended automatically, first time.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:41 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


If I were in my phone while walking, and someone screamed "HEADS UP!!" at me or deliberately bumped into me without a word, I would be ready to have some words with that butthole.

Like people walking while looking at their phones annoys you so deeply that it inspires you to scream at strangers or use physical force against them? Holy shit, maybe consider meditation or something.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:45 PM on September 4, 2019 [16 favorites]


Man this thread is Exhibit A why suburbs are so popular. I bike everyday and I've never thought of any pedestrian as a 'threat' to me.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:49 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


I've seen folks biking and texting, perhaps they need an excuse for a new phone?
posted by sammyo at 1:51 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


As a driver, I don't recall a pedestrian ever distractedly walking in front of my car - not because they were staring at their phone, anyway, but then some people are just idiots period.

As a pedestrian, I've been walked into on a sidewalk by another phone-distracted pedestrian about twice in my life tops, plus a few more who were just unaware even without a phone.

As both a driver and a pedestrian, I've seen plenty of drivers (and a very few cyclists, but that's another thread) do some damnfool things, though I have no way of knowing which of those may have been specifically phone-distracted.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:52 PM on September 4, 2019


Biking and texting is now illegal in the Netherlands, as of this summer. I'm glad. It's scary to watch distracted people on bikes. Most of the time, other folks on the road adapt and adjust their course to fix the bikers' mistakes, but that doesn't always work. I don't think anyone should be steering a vehicle while using a computer that requires looking at it and touching it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:56 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


If I were in my phone while walking, and someone screamed "HEADS UP!!" at me or deliberately bumped into me without a word, I would be ready to have some words with that butthole.

Like people walking while looking at their phones annoys you so deeply that it inspires you to scream at strangers or use physical force against them? Holy shit, maybe consider meditation or something.


While I firmly agree that "distracted pedestrians" are generally a red herring in the context of discussing urban planning and safe streets, people who claim to be awesome at walking and texting aren't -- they're just lucky.

And there are good reasons why this might be more of a bugaboo for some folks than others...

I'm married to a blind guy and he has phone zombie stories a-plenty. While the real threat out there is drivers and cars, we've had to shell out hundreds of dollars over the years in replacement white canes that phone zombies have stepped on and irreparably damaged. The clatter of a phone on the sidewalk is an unmistakable sound, and most of these people walk away without a word even after audibly snapping a carbon fibre cane with their foot (although these are generally more resilient than aluminum ones, which were easily bent to a point beyond being repairable).

He has the relative advantage of being a 240-pound dude, so he usually walks away from these encounters physically unscathed. So this is behaviour that can have a negative impact on fellow pedestrians -- but yet again, in the grand scheme of things, a hurtling mass of metal and plastic weighing thousands of pounds is the imminent and omnipresent threat when looked at relative to a distracted pedestrian.

However, we're also old enough and have been together for long enough for me to say that this is a thing that can and did happen before smartphones existed.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:14 PM on September 4, 2019 [12 favorites]


I also really liked this point in the NYC DOT report:

Additionally, DOT maintains the view point that use of a mobile device is just one of many forms of distraction that may occur while crossing the street (ZellerJr., 2007). Pedestrians are distracted when walking across the street with children, daydreaming, or feeling stressed. Human distraction has always and will always exist in some form, and is difficult, if not impossible, to entirely change. No urban environment can be entirely free from distraction.

There's a certain amount of bump-and-jostle that's just part of living in a densely populated urban environment.
Fellow pedestrians can be a pain in the ass, but they're not the killing machines.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:29 PM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


Pretty cool how the thread turned from "this problem isn't actually a problem, according to actual science" to "I'm going to complain about this thing anyway because it FEELS like a problem to me".

It's a minor annoyance. Unsafe driving - as cited in the actual report - KILLS PEOPLE.

The number one threat to pedestrian safety are bad drivers. I want to see the same amount of money and time that's been wasted on "distracted walking" be spent on education and ENFORCEMENT of legal driving.

And people who drive unsafely should absolutely lose their license. Driving is a privilege; being a pedestrian and getting home safe should be a right.

As noted up-thread: being a pedestrian is the only form of transportation which is literally used by everyone. I never understand why policy makers are so ignorant about pedestrian rights when their children are - by necessity - non-drivers, as will be many elderly people. It's not like there is anyone who doesn't know a non-driver, even if they are a 10-year-old.
posted by jb at 2:50 PM on September 4, 2019 [12 favorites]


god knows when i am blithely piloting a 2 ton machine of death...

As an Australian I demand to know what kind of tricked-out warboy rig you’re driving and can I ride in the back
posted by um at 3:15 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]




As a kid in the late 80s, I used to walk home from school reading a book. So being able to read one-handed is a big improvement!
posted by salvia at 3:24 PM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


I hit my teens living miles and miles away from the library in a hilly ruburb. Of course, when it wasn't raining, I would start reading a book on my bike handlebars as I cranked slowly home.

A neighbor of mine was shocked by this into driving off the road (slowly, un-traumatically) while, I guess, looking at me in the rear-view mirror and gesticulating. My parents were unenthused about the whole kerfuffle, but mostly on my side.
posted by clew at 3:58 PM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


My grandfather used to read while driving. He'd have a book on the seat next to him. I think he was pulled over for a suspected DUI multiple times. His family thought it was insane, but he defended it as an innocent love of books.

A few years ago I was driving at night in rural northern CA, and I came across an old pickup truck driving like 30 mph below the speed limit. I passed it, and inside I saw an old guy with the interior light on, reading a newspaper on the steering wheel.

Generally speaking, moving around without trying to be aware of your surroundings is a bad idea. To echo what mandolin conspiracy said, I remember a professor at my university wrote an article more or less asking students to stop walking into her and breaking her cane. So I'm not going to come down on the side of saying it's harmless behavior, because it's definitely not. It's just, you know, 20 seconds without looking up means something really different if you're a 150 lb person walking on the sidewalk at 3 mph vs if you're a 1500 lb vehicle doing 55. I mean, think about distances traveled, let alone the physical forces involved. I've had close calls on my bike with distracted people stepping in front of me when they weren't supposed to (it's hard enough to get people to see me when they're looking up!) but that's nowhere near as scary as someone texting while driving.

Another anecdote: I knew this guy in Michigan who hung around with our sorta hippy co-op crowd, and one day we got the news that he was in a coma. Nobody ever knew what exactly happened, but he'd rolled his car a few times near Ypsilanti, and when the first responders pulled him out of the wreckage, he was still holding his phone. I think it only took about six months for him to relearn how to walk and talk, and last I heard he was hanging out with everyone like nothing had happened (this was all years ago, of course). Don't text and drive, people.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:38 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


> Pretty cool how the thread turned from "this problem isn't actually a problem, according to actual science" to "I'm going to complain about this thing anyway because it FEELS like a problem to me".

I was once, as a driver, stuck at an intersection because a pedestrian got a call and stopped walking to answer it while in the crosswalk.

Despite that I'm still inclined to believe that using mobile phones (for whatever purpose) while walking are a marginal problem at best. All people, including pretty smart people, are going to do just plain stupid things now and again, and technology definitely abets it, but the context in which the technology is used provides way lower stakes than while driving. A distracted walker will bump into a phone pole without really damaging either of them. A distracted driver will hit a bicyclist and kill them.
posted by ardgedee at 4:41 PM on September 4, 2019


So you're annoyed when pedestrians are using our phones while we walk. Fair enough, I know I get weave-y sometimes when I ...

"Pedestrians need to be more cautious," Ortiz continued. "If they want to live longer they should be conscious of not talking or texting while crossing the street."

Wait, is he saying that if we text while walking we deserve to get hit by a car and die? Because it sounds like that's what he's saying.
posted by Tess of the d'Urkelvilles at 5:54 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


As an Australian I demand to know what kind of tricked-out warboy rig you’re driving and can I ride in the back
The top-selling vehicle in Australia last year was the 2-ton Toyota HiLux.

(though I suppose you were reacting more to the “machine of death” part than the “2 ton” part)
posted by mbrubeck at 6:05 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


So, no one involved in that report has ever tried to walk down a sidewalk in NYC without bumping into someone who has zero self awareness and is just lost in their phone with no regard for anyone else. I guess the dangers of being a selfish a-hole were not part of the consideration.

“Get off your phone dildo.” Has become my daily sing-song refrain.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 7:06 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


a phone dildo would be hilarious bc the sound just keeps cutting out over and over and over and meanwhile you can hear grandma's tinny-sounding tremulous voice asking about what you want for sunday dinner and it's coming from somewhere you truly never expected
posted by poffin boffin at 7:12 PM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


no one steal my idea
posted by poffin boffin at 7:13 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Based on my own experience accidentally walking into poles, texting is not as serious an impairment for pedestriating as just thinking really hard.
posted by Jpfed at 7:22 PM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


no one steal my idea

I think you're safe.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:42 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


I think you're safe.

Don't be so sure; inventors are inching ever closer to the idea...
posted by Jpfed at 7:44 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


As a kid in the late 80s, I used to walk home from school reading a book. So being able to read one-handed is a big improvement!

Yeah all my life I've been the weirdo walking while reading a book. I'm so happy that now my weirdness is disguised by the way EVERYONE appears to be walking and reading. It legit makes me happy to see. (Except that I don't see it because my face is buried in my ebook).
posted by lollusc at 7:53 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


If a time traveller visited our time from the distant past and we explained to them that were really annoyed about people reading while walking at the same time as vehicle operators killed 30,000 people a year and injured 10 times that number what do you think the time traveller would think?
posted by srboisvert at 7:53 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


That the author of Revelations had suffered from a lack of imagination?
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:58 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


"Pedestrians need to be more cautious," Ortiz continued. "If they want to live longer they should be conscious of not talking or texting while crossing the street."

Wait, is he saying that if we text while walking we deserve to get hit by a car and die? Because it sounds like that's what he's saying.
The same way that Smokey the Bear really meant "you f**kers should all die in a fire" when he said "only *you* can prevent forest fires."

It is certainly correct to note that inattention in a hazardous environment can increase your hazard. And let us recall, Mother Nature doesn't care who was at fault in a car/pedestrian collision--she punishes the pedestrian.

Does someone get paid to write for this Gothamist thing? Because that was definitely a short-ass article. Also, I thought in New York you guys just shot everyplace in those clear tubes? People are walking now?
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 8:06 PM on September 4, 2019


And let us recall, Mother Nature doesn't care who was at fault in a car/pedestrian collision

It's quite possible to be dead right.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:18 PM on September 4, 2019


Why is this being framed as either you hate cars or you hate pedestrians

Oh wait because that is moar likely to sow discord and gain hot take favorites
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:40 PM on September 4, 2019


It is certainly correct to note that inattention in a hazardous environment can increase your hazard. And let us recall, Mother Nature doesn't care

Just to be clear: transportation infrastructure is not natural in the way a forest is natural. We could absolutely rebuild it to be safer for everyone, rather than behaving as though all the deaths are just the unavoidable consequence of, well, existing.

How are we wasting time urging people walking to do anything differently for their own safety while drivers ram cars through buildings every day? Welp. Maybe the buildings shouldn't have been texting.

(I don't say "drivers" do these things rather than "cars" because I want to be divisive. I say it because the cars wouldn't be doing a goddamn thing without a human being behind the wheel, or occasionally a dog. Car crashes are not a force of nature.)
posted by asperity at 9:22 PM on September 4, 2019 [14 favorites]


Based on my own experience accidentally walking into poles, texting is not as serious an impairment for pedestriating as just thinking really hard.

I've not had issues crossing the road, but have definitely repeatedly embarrassed myself having to stop quickly for other pedestrians / inanimate objects because I was deep in my phone, to the point where now I distract my brain by listening to podcasts instead in order that I can keep my vision.

With that said - I once, phone free, walked straight up cartoon style into a lamp post because I was concentrating really hard on a box of chips, so
posted by ominous_paws at 11:54 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm confused by the "using your phone while walking is rude" crowd.

Presumably people accept that walking is good. Where possible, it is good for me to walk rather than use vehicles. But I am time-poor. The time between appointments is incredibly valuable time. Not everyone has jobs where we can have other tabs open, if you want me to stop using my phone on my commute, you're taking away some of the best phone time I have. When I'm alone, when it's not rude to those with me, when other things are hard to get done, when I'm walking home is prime phone time.

Like I can't have my phone out at uni, I can't have it out at work or organising, I can't have it out when I'm eating with others or socialising, and people want to tell me to put it away during my commute? Yet whinge that you don't text them back immediately at all hours? I don't have much polite to say in response.
posted by Acid Communist at 12:03 AM on September 5, 2019 [5 favorites]


Mother Nature doesn't care who was at fault in a car/pedestrian collision--she punishes the pedestrian.

Most of the time, yes. Sometimes no, e.g. when the car takes evasive action to avoid the pedestrian, and hits another car, or another pedestrian(s).

Mother Government, on the other hand, tends to punish the car.

Phones don't kill people. Decayed senses of social responsibility kill people. Where once upon a time everybody was considered responsible for road safety (remember being militarily drilled as kids on how to correctly cross the road?), we now seem as a society to have slipped into a mindset where we presume the only thing that is obliged to look where it is going is the largest thing on the road, whatever that happens to be, and that if anything bad happens, that's their fault and not anyone else's. And ultimately it doesn't matter whether the pedestrian was looking at a phone, a newspaper, a balalaika, a stuffed yak or anything else.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 12:45 AM on September 5, 2019


I was once, as a driver, stuck at an intersection because a pedestrian got a call and stopped walking to answer it while in the crosswalk.

Despite that I'm still inclined to believe that using mobile phones (for whatever purpose) while walking are a marginal problem at best.


Well, yes. Because this problem is one that is funny. Or, at worst, annoying. What it isn't is something that requires the force of law to solve.

It is certainly correct to note that inattention in a hazardous environment can increase your hazard.

It is also correct to note that the hazardous environment in question is entirely artificial, in that we have chosen to create it, in spite of all the death and destruction that has resulted. And that we have the option of making it less hazardous if we so desire.
posted by alexei at 1:46 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


There's an old court decision which states: "a drunken man is as much entitled to a safe street, as a sober one, and much more in need of it". Replace "drunken" with "texting," and it's very applicable to the situation today.
posted by alexei at 2:25 AM on September 5, 2019 [8 favorites]


being a pedestrian is the only form of transportation which is literally used by everyone. I never understand why policy makers are so ignorant about pedestrian rights

Could it be that policymakers and their families are the sort of people who drive, or are driven, right up to their destinations? You don't learn much about being a pedestrian on public sidewalks when you drive from home to a parking lot and walk from the parking lot into an adjacent building.
posted by pracowity at 2:46 AM on September 5, 2019 [5 favorites]


There's an old court decision which states: "a drunken man is as much entitled to a safe street, as a sober one, and much more in need of it". Replace "drunken" with "texting," and it's very applicable to the situation today.

Except that the drunken man didn't know he was entitled.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 3:12 AM on September 5, 2019


Does nobody else have peripheral vision? I can totally read and keep an eye on the width of the pavement several meters in front of me at the same time, but then I've been reading and walking since I was six (and would never do it on properly crowded streets like downtown Hong Kong - Tai Wai, where I grew up though, no problem, and same for my current UK Midlands town).
posted by Dysk at 3:26 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Except that the drunken man didn't know he was entitled.

Maybe you and I know different drunks, but my experience is that drunk me absolutely know they're entitled to whatever enters their head at any time. Like, gets a bit peckish, suddenly the world owes them a kebab. Tired, and they're owed a lift, or teleportation. Nobody is more entitled than someone who is staggering drunk.
posted by Dysk at 3:27 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


Mother Government, on the other hand, tends to punish the car.

HahahahahahahahahahAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHhahahahahaha.... *deep breath* hahahahahahHAHAHAHAHA! OMG tell another good one.

Hitting someone with a car is the easiest way to maim or kill someone and for the driver (not the car, you can't punish an inanimate object) to get off scot-free. Just say you "didn't see them" or "your foot slipped" or "they came from out of nowhere" and it's all "Oopsie! Just an accident! Couldn't have been helped!" and at most you get a traffic ticket for failure to exercise due caution or something.

Pretty much the only way a driver gets any serious consequences for a collision is if they are drunk/impaired.
posted by misskaz at 5:24 AM on September 5, 2019 [18 favorites]


...oh, and if they don't just drive away.
posted by misskaz at 5:26 AM on September 5, 2019 [7 favorites]


Yeah, pretty much the only way you would get charged with anything serious as a driver is if you also did other dumb and illegal things. Getting caught on camera actually chasing someone down, or backing up and driving over them a second time, or being caught with a bag of drugs in your lap might do it, but just plain hitting someone "by accident" generally won't.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:42 AM on September 5, 2019 [5 favorites]


Does nobody else have peripheral vision? I can totally read and keep an eye on the width of the pavement several meters in front of me at the same time, but then I've been reading and walking since I was six (and would never do it on properly crowded streets like downtown Hong Kong - Tai Wai, where I grew up though, no problem, and same for my current UK Midlands town).

Yeah, I’m... baffled by this discussion, because I have terrible peripheral vision (truly, truly awful), am pretty much never walking without looking at my phone (because, as Acid Communist notes, I am time poor and can’t look at my phone in class or with clients and yet get tons of emails I’m expected to respond to anyway) and also a very clumsy person who is constantly running into things... and this has NEVER happened on my phone. I can see what’s going on around me plenty well. If I’m not on my phone I’m much more likely to get distracted by something to the side of me and not be looking in front of me.

Blah blah “you’ve just been lucky” but that’s equal anecdata. We have no evidence either way so I don’t know why we’re insisting most people are bad at it so it must be a terrible idea. Sure, some people definitely are but some people are also just bad at walking and looking in front of them regardless of phones. I’ve never been walked into by anyone on a phone, pretty much the only time it happens is when I’m going through a two way automatic door because for some reason my brain (and presumably the other person equally startled that I’m there) doesn’t register anything through the glass.

Also I think this is heavily location dependent. I too would not do this in NYC. In a large Midwest city though, people don’t walk that fast and there really aren’t that many people on the street. People slow down, swerve, etc for all sorts of reasons without phones and unless you’re not looking it’s super easy to avoid them because usually there’s 10-15 feet between you and any other pedestrian. Even distracted on my phone with zero peripheral vision it’s easy to move around people who stop dead in front of the 7/11 to stare at the advertisements in the windows. I guess I can see how annoying this would be in busier, faster cities, but here it would be absolutely baffling to be so upset by it.
posted by brook horse at 6:34 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Just because a person has peripheral vision doesn't mean it's being used. People who are engrossed with reading/interacting with their smartphone often experience a narrowing of focus that makes them less sensitive to things like peripheral vision. Moreover, given disparities in visual acuity overall, some people are already less sensitive to peripheral vision.
posted by slkinsey at 7:16 AM on September 5, 2019


Why is this being framed as either you hate cars or you hate pedestrians

Yeah! The common unifying factor is inattentive people, who are a danger to themselves and others regardless of what else is happening or where in the world they happen to be. I walk, bike, train commute, bus, and drive in the city, and I hate how some other people do all of them for different reasons, almost all of them related to mindfulness and situational awareness.

I also hate people walking while listening to headphones, biking while giving the endeavor anything less than their undivided attention, let alone wearing headphones, and driving almost across the board. Cars are stupid and horrid and inefficient and dangerous, while pedestrians are stupid and inattentive and merely annoying. But if you are dangerously inattentive at home that's your problem, and if you're dangerously inattentive out in the world it's our problem.

Holy shit, maybe consider meditation or something.
I mean there was no way this thread was going to result in reasoned debate.

Maybe it's because I grew up in rattlesnake and cactus country where almost everything is dangerous if you aren't paying attention, but I find the vapid passivity with which a lot of people engage with their environments sorta infuriating. I feel like it's incumbent on everyone to try to pay attention to their surroundings.

this thread is Exhibit A why suburbs are so popular.
Suburbs are the worst of all possible lifestyle choices and you can keep 'em.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:26 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm confused by the "using your phone while walking is rude" crowd.

Presumably people accept that walking is good. Where possible, it is good for me to walk rather than use vehicles. But I am time-poor. The time between appointments is incredibly valuable time. Not everyone has jobs where we can have other tabs open, if you want me to stop using my phone on my commute, you're taking away some of the best phone time I have. When I'm alone, when it's not rude to those with me, when other things are hard to get done, when I'm walking home is prime phone time.


The thing is you are not alone and navigating in the public sphere is a collaborative effort and you are unilaterally opting out of that effort and putting the burden of dealing with the consequences of your inattentiveness on other people.

In short, you are in the way and are oblivious enough that you don't even realize it. The words used to describe people behaving like this are generally anatomical.
posted by srboisvert at 7:53 AM on September 5, 2019 [7 favorites]


The common unifying factor is inattentive people, who are a danger to themselves and others regardless of what else is happening or where in the world they happen to be.

But when it's just pedestrians, not much of a danger. When cyclists are on the road or in their own lanes, when areas are zoned with an eye to walkability and safety, it doesn't matter too much if someone slows or stops, wanders a bit because they're on their phone, have kids, a pet, whatever.

Like yes we have restrictions, there are real barriers we're up against, whole suburbs built without thought to the pedestrian, but that's no reason to concede that perhaps people have something of a right to be inattentive. What are our public spaces for? Are they only for transit, or can we aspire to urban planning and design that gives people the freedom to be distracted without fear of being run over?
posted by Acid Communist at 7:56 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


If some people's only experience of walking is busy transit and crowded areas between stations then it's a very different situation. I'm not glued to my phone, train stations etc areas with lots of other people I'm far less likely to have it up, unless I need it to navigate, which again, you don't know who might. But I spend hours a day walking around relatively quiet streets from place to place. The vast majority of the time it'd be absurd to argue I'm inconveniencing anyone else by using my phone, except drivers who want a right to careen around wildly in residential or commerical areas.
posted by Acid Communist at 8:07 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


Could it be that policymakers and their families are the sort of people who drive, or are driven, right up to their destinations?

Yes, you're probably right. It's notorious that there are board members for our local transit system who have never used the system, which you would think would be a basic requirement (and it would be, if I were God-Emperor - it's like having an artistic director of a theatre company who has never seen a play).

Hitting someone with a car is the easiest way to maim or kill someone and for the driver (not the car, you can't punish an inanimate object) to get off scot-free. Just say you "didn't see them" or "your foot slipped" or "they came from out of nowhere" and it's all "Oopsie! Just an accident! Couldn't have been helped!" and at most you get a traffic ticket for failure to exercise due caution or something.

In Toronto, a young man drove on the sidewalk for “some 20 metres” and killed a woman walking on that sidewalk. He was later aquitted of a dangerous driving charge. No justice would have been served by sending him to jail for 14 years, but he was clearly incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle. He should have lost his license.

Dangerous driving should be punished directly, not through fines or jail-time, but by loss of the permission to drive. Fines mean one law for the rich over the poor; jail time is costly and pointless. If I run a restaurant badly and let mice dance in the window, public health comes and takes away my permission to sell food. This is what should happen to drivers who run red lights - like the driver of the "vehicle that violated a light causing a chain reaction of events", sending several people to the hospital.

I did also notice the culpability-denying language from the police spokesperson: there was no "intentional act" it was "appears to be a vehicle that violated a light", as if vehicles made these decisions with no input from the drivers. This kind of language/framing should be utterly banned from the police and the media: it makes people anthropomorphize cars and ignore the actual drivers.
posted by jb at 8:10 AM on September 5, 2019 [10 favorites]


Hitting someone with a car is the easiest way to maim or kill someone and for the driver (not the car, you can't punish an inanimate object) to get off scot-free.

Torn backpack full of caltrops, while livestreaming on Instagram. The fact that no pedestrian has yet doesn't mean we can't.
posted by saysthis at 8:23 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


it was "appears to be a vehicle that violated a light", as if vehicles made these decisions with no input from the drivers.

That is where we're headed, in any case.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:42 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Are they only for transit, or can we aspire to urban planning and design that gives people the freedom to be distracted without fear of being run over?

You very clearly have never been trying to ride a 40 lb commuter rideshare bike in a marked bike lane as an utterly clueless asshole buried in his phone steps in front of you with zero warning. Like you're riding up the block and you see them, leaning on a pole or just standing, so you think you're ok, and without so much as looking up or checking to make sure they can safely move, they just step in front a moving bicycle, riding at regular ole bicycle speeds, and then generally have the gall to be pissed at YOU. Because they're watching Friends on their phone and can't miss what happens next.

By this rationale, anyone should be entitled to move in whatever random vector they like, with the expectation being that everyone else around them watch out for their safety and well-being while they are free to move about literally watching cartoons on their phone as others around them try to go to work, or get their shopping done, or get to the hospital. And then imagine this clueless asshole times 1,000 others, every block, for your 15 block walk. Because you can design all the parks you want for people to wander around utterly distracted all you like, but those distracted people will eventually want to go somewhere....else. And they will stay distracted for their entire journey, and offload the work and responsibility of keeping them safe and sound onto everyone else around them.

Please never move to a city.
posted by nevercalm at 9:17 AM on September 5, 2019 [8 favorites]


I've quoted him before, I'm sure I'll quote him again:

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door."
(Bilbo Baggins)
posted by philip-random at 9:31 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


y'all I just crossed a street while eating an ice cream cone

leaving wreckage in my wake

will now hold out my hands for the cuffs but be warned they're sticky
posted by asperity at 12:23 PM on September 5, 2019 [9 favorites]


will now hold out my hands for the cuffs but be warned they're sticky

Please tell me the ice cream was Rocky Road.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:22 PM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


Coconut on top of chocolate. Yep, a double-scoop cone, which is like next-level distracted walking.
posted by asperity at 2:50 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door."
(Bilbo Baggins)


The dangers of distracting dragons are well known to the people of Laketown.
posted by nubs at 3:02 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Please never move to a city.

I live in a city. And I feel zero guilt about offloading the work and responsibility of keeping myself safe and sound from powered vehicles onto the operators of those vehicles! Fear, but no guilt.

So I'm not trying to get run over, but yeah you should probably know where your brakes are if you don't want to stress as much while driving your bike around.
posted by Acid Communist at 5:10 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm not trying to get run over
I mean, I've had someone try to get me to run them over before, and it worked out a lot better than it could have, but I'm positive if lots of people were actually trying, things (WRT pedestrian vehicular casualties) would be much worse.

On a bike I can brake from 15 mph to a skidding stoppie in about 10 feet, and more importantly can dodge through less than a two-foot gap. This has so far been juuuuust enough to save both of us when some dingus decides to pop out from between two unloading box trucks in the middle of the block while entranced by their uber's map icon. Several times a month I dodge a situation that, were I in a car, would have resulted in someone else being hurt. Most of the time this is people looking at their phones. It's way worse when it's a driver, but . . .

Again, I don't blame phones, I blame a combination of shitty infrastructure, along with the inattentive and hapless. But the last part does have to take at least a little of the blame.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:18 PM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


So this happened this week: state department of transportation had people in eyeball masks cross a street to promote the idea that we should make eye contact with drivers. (Coverage from Denverite, Streetsblog Denver.)

Like, have they tried it? In the unlikely event the drivers aren't already blocking the crosswalk to the point they'd have to look sideways to see you (stop lines? What are those?) they've got windows tinted to opacity. In the event you can actually see their eyes, they're staring at their phones or they're looking fixedly left so they can make a right turn on red.

If you can actually manage to make eye contact before stepping off the curb, they get aggro with you and honk or keep moving their car at you because you are obviously not crossing that street as fast as you could be, the evidence being that you tried to make the all-important eye contact.

Anyway this is nonsense that's useless for lots of visually-impaired people, and everybody who keeps designing streets in a way that kills people needs to stop right now and reexamine their lives. Also maybe we could stop letting people drive monster trucks on public streets. Can't make eye contact when the bumper's at shoulder height, can you? (Photo of crosswalk-blocking truck with child crossing in front of it.)
posted by asperity at 9:52 PM on September 5, 2019 [7 favorites]


It certainly doesn't hurt to make eye contact with drivers when possible. I won't cross the street if I can't be sure the driver sees me, which means sometimes it takes a while to cross the street, and when I'm crossing where traffic may enter due to a turn I'll be sure to look at the drivers to maximize the chance that they see me. It usually works and I've never encountered an angry motorist in that scenario, though sometimes they arrogantly wave me through, as if they're doing me a favor.

So I don't think it is nonsense, but it clearly isn't 100% effective and also not useful for the visually-impaired. It is also probably way harder to do in areas with a preponderance of wide, busy roads and tall vehicles. But it works pretty well in Philly.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:05 AM on September 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


Studies are limited on the question, but in several cases experimenters have demonstrated that drivers yield at a much higher rate if you just keep walking rather than stopping in an attempt to make eye contact. Though "while not stopping before crossing may garner a high proportion of yields, it is not a practical way to behave as a pedestrian and not often possible."

I mostly just try to appear as though I'm going to continue walking regardless of driver behavior. I'm not, but I'm sure the drivers who yield when they otherwise wouldn't are later complaining on Facebook about how those crazy pedestrians just step out in front of you without looking or anything!

My entirely-anecdotal experience suggests better results with this maneuver than with the shame-stare or even pointing or waving at them. Back on topic, I haven't tried looking at my phone as I'm crossing. I've been assuming that'll make it look like I'm happy to just wait forever to cross. Not being in a climate-controlled armchair on wheels, I am not interested in waiting a moment longer than necessary.
posted by asperity at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yeah in general just walking across the street when the driver is stopped or just slowly moving works pretty good though one must be prepared to jump on a hood or whatever. N.b. I won't do it if they're doing a right-on-red and looking left: that's just asking to be killed even if you shout at them.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:31 PM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


At times though I've been tempted to carry a Pulaski around just happily holding it out in front of me at crossings and if someone hits it well GOSH DARN I guess you weren't looking where you were going, oh is that a few thousand dollars in body damage, guess you better get out some duct tape or whatever? Also if they get mad, you're holding a Pulaski.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:33 PM on September 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


A 10 year old boy was killed yesterday when a driver lost control of his car and jumped onto the sidewalk.

In case you were thinking police couldn't possibly find a way to victim-blame in this circumstance, “Police believe Farachio was looking at his phone and did not see the vehicle coming.”
posted by misskaz at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]


As far as I can tell, they expect us all to have the incredible situational awareness and sprinting ability of this woman sitting in a lobby (link to video posted on Twitter) at all times.
posted by asperity at 8:25 AM on September 11, 2019


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