John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Philadelphia officials want to combat such painful examples of "distracted walking."
You know how the edges of subway tracks are equipped with textured flooring, so blind people can sense they're in peril of tumbling onto the tracks? Turns out even that is not enough to halt a person who's really bonding with their cell phone.
Sturdy nets, or perhaps a screeching alarm similar to when bowlers go "over the line," might be needed in Philadelphia's train system to save its phone-loving passengers from harming themselves. That's apparent in the below 2011 video recorded by Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority that was featured last week in a head-shaking AP story about "distracted walking." It's a reportedly growing scourge, with four times as many people heading to the emergency room than they did seven years ago due to walking blindly into a hard obstruction.
In this particular case, the distracted man fell headlong into the SEPTA track pit and was either knocked senseless or unconscious, because he remained there for several minutes. Luck was on his side, however, as no trains happened to be roaring down the tunnel. He climbed out and survived. Many others haven't, according to SEPTA, which claims that several people have died on train tracks while wearing headphones or clasping cell phones.
Philadelphia's been on the forefront of badgering distracted walkers for their own good. You might remember Mayor Michael Nutter's jokey "E-Lane Initiative" for oblivious texters this April Fool's Day. The city hopes its educational campaigns will assuage the widespread pedestrian suffering afflicting the city; as it stands, about 2,000 people are hit by cars every year in Philly.