I come from the Philadelphia area and on a trip back last year, I had a near-miss with a guy in Center City. Let’s call him Gus. So I was driving through an intersection near Rittenhouse Square when Gus, riding a skateboard and talking on a phone, crossed my path against the light. I slammed the brakes, gasped and — heart pounding — watched as Gus rolled nonchalantly away. He barely even noticed.
In case you’re wondering, this wasn’t a kid with a short-attention span or a teen playing “Chicken.” This was a full-fledged adult who looked like he was off to work. (What the —?!)
Well, Gus, I hope you’re paying more attention to the news than you did my car.
Starting November 1, there’s a new cell law in Philly, and it’s not just for drivers. Texting, talking or dialing on a handset is also illegal for just about any activity on wheels, motorized or not. That includes skateboarding, biking, inline-skating or operating a scooter. People will be expected to use a hands-free accessory or put the phone away during those activities, otherwise pay a $150 fine.
This law makes the city the first one to expand its mobile phone legislation beyond drivers to regulate non-motorists as well.
NPR caught up with one skaterboy named John McCafferty, who zeroed in on the hands-free accessory loophole: “So, if I, like, have a Double Gulp from 7-Eleven in my hand, and I'm talking on the Bluetooth, that's OK?” he asks. “All right, that's cool.” (That does seem kind of weird, doesn’t it?)
I look at this kind of expansive regulation, and wonder if it will get any traction. If it becomes a trend, and your city or town started making it illegal to roll and talk, how would you react? Would you be relieved and happy, or would you roll your eyes in annoyance and ignore it? I don't know for sure, but that's probably what Gus is doing right now.