Texting While Walking Is Now a Crime in Philadelphia

In today's little bit of authoritarianism we can get behind: Philadelphia is going to start handing out citations—and $120 fines—to pedestrians who "text while they walk without looking ahead."

Philadelphia officials next month plan to use more "stick" in a program that takes a carrot-and-stick approach to bad behavior by people in cars, on bicycles, and on foot.

The program, dubbed "Give Respect, Get Respect," was launched at the beginning of May [...] Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler says starting in August, more citations will be issued.

Also being targeted: Annoying cyclists who ride on the sidewalk and drivers who "don't respect the bike lane." We could pretend that we're incensed at this kind of micro-policing, sure. But, well: There is basically nothing more annoying than someone texting while walking on a busy street. You might ask Aren't there better things that cops can be doing, like preventing murders?

But the thing is, no, no, there is nothing I would like cops to be doing more right now than giving tickets to these people, unless it is actually arresting them and putting them in jail, or possibly just executing them on the spot Judge Dredd-style. Bring this program to New York and include people who just stop and stand still, right at the head of the stairs, after exiting the subway and I will vote for Mayor Bloomberg a thousand times over.

Update: Mark McDonald, Press Secretary for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, writes in:

The Max Read story you have today is utterly false. There is no policy, plan or activity in Philadelphia where pedestrians are being ticketed for texting.

Your whack job reporter can spin his puerile fantasies about doing violence to people he does not like, but he first needs to get his facts straight. Indeed, Max might want to do a little READING before he writes.

Ouch, Mark! But he's right: The CBS story is, apparently, incorrect. WPVI spoke with Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler:

A report that texting and walking would be a ticketable offense from a local news station was picked up by a number of news networks and blogs overnight.

The stories quoted Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler.

However, when contacted by Action News on Tuesday, Cutler said that is not true. Furthermore, she questioned how such a law could even be enforced.

Oh well. We can still dream, can't we?

[CBS Philadelphia; image by Kalani Gregoire via Flickr]