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Toronto city council asks province to ban use of cellphones while walking on roadways

A file photo of a woman texting and walking. ASSOCIATED PRESS/File

Toronto city council passed a motion Thursday night requesting that the provincial transportation minister consider banning the use of cellphones and other handheld devices by pedestrians walking on crosswalks and roadways.

City Councillor Josh Matlow, who voted against the motion, said he was surprised that it had passed in council.

“I honestly I think the motion itself is a distraction, never mind preventing distracted walking,” he told Global News.

“The police don’t enforce distracted driving and speeding well enough, never mind have the resources to go after everyone walking looking at their cellphones.”

READ MORE: Distracted walking isn’t a big problem. (Distracted driving is)

Councillor Frances Nunziata put forth the motion Thursday, but it’s not yet clear what the specifics of the proposal would look like in practice.

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The motion requested the Minister of Transportation consider making a regulation under the Highway Traffic Act prohibiting pedestrians from “actively using a handheld wireless communication device or handheld electronic entertainment device” while on “any travelled portion of a roadway.”

Matlow said he interpreted that the motion referred to pedestrians using their phones while walking on city crosswalks and intersections, but not as far as banning the use of phones on sidewalks.

“I think there’s a place for laws and then there’s a place for common sense and I think we expect that people use common sense when crossing the street,” he said, adding that

“I also don’t think it’s reasonable that we use limited police resources to go after people who are holding their phone when they’re crossing at the lights.”

The motion carried in council by a vote of 26-15. Councillors who supported the motion included Giorgio Mammoliti, Jim Karygiannis, Denzel Minnan-Wong and even Mayor John Tory.

Matlow said he was surprised that Tory voted in favour of the motion, adding that the larger Road Safety Plan passed in council Thursday was a far more important issue.

“When we approve a policy it’s got to be reasonable and realistic and I don’t think we want to start asking police to run after people who are holding their phones when crossing the street. There needs to be some common sense involved in that,” he said.

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“City council is supposed to be a group of serious people making serious decisions and that motion to me isn’t supported by some basic common sense.”

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