The growing moral panic over being wired while walking takes none of this into account.
Instead, Americans are increasingly being told that the solution is an arbitrary, punitive approach that has little evidence to back it up.
The aldermen, like most proponents of distracted-walking crackdowns, claimed that they were responding to an alarming spike in local traffic fatalities.
“Distracted pedestrian” laws aren’t really about the evidence, though.
They are about maintaining the privileges of car culture as that culture is about to confront an enormous shift in the balance of civic and technological power—one that threatens to permanently upend the relationship between drivers and pedestrians.
In the last year, local lawmakers across the nation have become convinced that smartphone-addled pedestrians are a pressing public-safety concern.
Honolulu, a city where the weather is so perfect that everyone should naturally want to walk everywhere at all times, passed the nation’s first “distracted walking” law in July, which approves fines for pedestrians who look at a phone or other digital device while using a crosswalk.
As it happens, the enormous legal privileges of car drivers are rooted in an earlier anti-pedestrian campaign dating from the early days of the automobile.
Historically, city streets had been part of the public realm.
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Due to their mechanical power, fast speeds, and need for large amounts of physical space, cars upset this mix of uses and posed a new mortal danger to pedestrians exercising their right to mobility.