Following the lead of cities like Honolulu and Montclair, Calif, New York could become the first state to ban “distracted walking.”
If passed, the bill would prohibit using any portable electronic device while crossing the street. ‘Distracted walkers’ could face fines of $25 to $50 for their first infraction, and up to $250 for repeat offenders.
“It’s not hard to notice the number of people texting while walking,” State Senator John Liu, the bill’s sponsor, told CNN. “We want New Yorkers to know it’s okay to wait the five seconds.” Liu’s home borough, Queens, currently has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in New York City.
This is the second time this year a New York legislator has proposed a distracted walking bill. In January, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz proposed basically the same bill, though it never progressed out of committee. Ortiz is now a co-sponsor on Liu’s bill.
Critics say, however, that the bill does not actually get to the heart of the issue. Marco Conner, a deputy director at the nonprofit Transportation Alternatives, told CityLab that while the bill was “well-intentioned” it could lead to subjective policing — and ignores the fact that drivers are at fault for a majority of pedestrian deaths. And State Senator Tim Kennedy, chair of the Senate’s Transportation Committee (which would need to approve the bill), told USA Today he viewed the proposal in its current form as “an overreach of government.”
Other states, including New York’s neighbors Connecticut and New Jersey, are currently considering similar bills.