Look straight ahead when you’re walking on a Vancouver street, and you may be in the minority.
The lure of our smartphones is often too great to ignore, even when crossing the street – which is why two city councillors support a ban on texting while walking in crosswalks and roadways.
“I find in my own life the temptation to look at the phone or check my messages while I’m waiting for a light is overpowering. I’ve got to force myself to get my head up and look around before I step out,” admitted Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs.
Meggs is teaming with fellow Vision councillor Heather Deal in supporting a ban. Staying safe is becoming a high-stakes game as Pokémon Go invades the city. Earlier this week, Vancouver Police issued a safety warning about the augmented reality game, which sees app users dodge traffic in search of animated monsters that appear at PokéStops.
Many pedestrians we spoke with say they’d be OK with a ban if it made crosswalks safer, while others say it’s already common sense to look where you’re going when you’re texting and walking.
On Thursday night, Toronto city council voted 26-15 in favour of asking Ontario to ban texting while walking across the street. But on Friday the province’s transportation minister Steven Del Duca rejected the move, saying he had no plans to amend the Highway Traffic Act to accommodate the request.
Vancouver may not need help from the province to move forward with a similar ban. The city says it might be able to do it through section 317 1(a) of the Vancouver Charter, which deals with street traffic.
Late Friday, Transportation ministry spokesperson Kate Trotter confirmed that “Local governments have the authority under the Motor Vehicle Act to regulate pedestrian traffic, if they wish to do so.”