Chicago considering fines for walking and texting in intersections

CHICAGO -- So many of us do it: texting while walking, not paying attention as we cross the street.

But some say "distracted walking" is dangerous to pedestrians and should be discouraged by legislation, like in Honolulu, HI and San Mateo County, CA, where walkers can be fined if they don't put their phones down while crossing the street.

A proposed measure would add Chicago to that list.

Aldermen Ed Burke (Ward 14) and Anthony Beale (Ward 9) introduced an ordinance Wednesday aimed at changing pedestrians' bad behavior by fining them if they text or use a mobile device while walking through intersections in Chicago.

The measure proposed by Burke and Beale would fine pedestrians between $90 and $500 for each incident of using a mobile device while crossing a street or highway. The full City Council would have to pass the measure.

Yvette Medina, who was trying to turn on Pandora as she crossed one Chicago street, said she does it "all the time."

"I’m walking down the street, I’m looking at my phone. But I look at the sign before I cross that way I know whether I can walk or not," Medina said.

Gregory Goss said the proposed measure is actually "common sense."

"A lot of people don’t have common sense. That’s what happens, and then they get on the news. They got ran over," Goss said.

"If you have laws about when you’re in your car, you’re on your phone while driving, it probably should be the same way when you’re walking as well, too," Juan Gonzalez said.

Others don’t like it. Joe Renz says pedestrians are not the problem, and the issue is districted drivers.

"We should focus on the priorities at hand and let other things such as walking with a cellphone being a secondary or third focus," Renz said.

Among potential supporters of the measure in City Council is Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (Ward 22).

"We have a public safety concern of people being immersed on their phones walking, especially downtown with all these bike lanes and the traffic, that people should be paying attention," Muñoz said.

Mayor Emanuel is not saying much and Chicago’s Deputy Transportation Commissioner told the Tribune there is no data showing a link between distracted walking and an increase in pedestrian deaths.