Carney: Look both ways, not at your cell

Michael Carney

Michael CarneyIn light of the high volume of TU Alerts in recent weeks, it comes as no surprise that students are staring at their phone screens more often than usual, anticipating the next crime scare. On a slightly more peaceful day in Templetown, students can use their phones to fake phone calls while passing clipboard-wielding activist groups, listen to music to block out the Bell Tower Bible-guy, read PowerPoint slides on the way to their midterms or use Twitter to make the long walk across Broad Street more entertaining.

With a huge social media presence and Wi-Fi available in locations as isolated as the Student Center’s bathrooms, Temple promotes an electronically social campus anytime and anywhere. However, many students take this initiative literally and use their phone during any opportunity that presents itself.

While this is fairly normal for any crowd of twentysomethings across the U.S., distracted walking is becoming  a serious issue around the most-trafficked corners of Main Campus, like the intersection of 13th Street and Montgomery Avenue – directly outside the Student Center – and anywhere across Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

Nearly late for class, I rushed across the crosswalk that connects Morgan Hall to the rest of campus and saw a familiar sight. On Broad, I noticed a cluster of about a dozen students tightly packed halfway across the street while cars passed them on both sides. Too impatient to wait for the light to change, these students browsed Facebook, checked emails and tweeted  until traffic stopped. Why this phone ritual couldn’t be done at the corner at a safe distance from speeding, two-ton machines is still a mystery to me.

It’s not like students don’t get clipped by cars either: In addition to the nominal bumps and near-misses that probably occur around Main Campus on a daily basis, students standing on Broad truly are in danger of losing their lives. In 2011, Temple student Peter Eckerson was run over twice near the corner of Broad and Oxford Streets  by the same driver, who was later shot and killed by police.

That same week, I was leaving the Student Center when I saw two girls walking directly towards each other with their eyes glued to their phones. Admittedly, I hoped for a collision. Just inches away from each other, one phone made a sound and both girls suddenly became aware of how close they had come to walking into each other. The fifth-most popular proposition on Visualize Temple, a web portal where students can propose changes to Temple’s campuses and policies, is to build a pedestrian-only bridge across the intersection of Broad Street and Pollett Walk.

The blocks surrounding the Student Center are an indisputable nightmare of glazed eyes and swerving traffic. On the days when a crossing guard is stationed at the corner outside the Student Center’s main entrance, he or she is essentially tasked with blocking a proverbial river of students armed with nothing but a single sandbag. When there is no guard, traffic stands still in four directions until a single car can inch itself into the migrating herd of students.

I find myself constantly walking in a zig-zag around campus to avoid those who are too focused on their phones to pay attention to their surroundings. Since distracted walking is becoming increasingly dangerous – according to a study published in “Public Health Reports” in Oct. 2013, pedestrian fatalities in distracted driving accidents increased 45.2 percent from 2005 to 2010 – it is only a matter of time before a pedestrian reading about a TU Alert becomes the subject of a TU Alert him or herself.

Miehael Carney can be reached at  michael.carney@temple.edu.

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