Heads up, phones away

Students should look both ways and put their cell phones in their pockets to ensure the safety of themselves and their peers. It’s a powerful piece of advice, one of the most basic survival tools

Students should look both ways and put their cell phones in their pockets to ensure the safety of themselves and their peers.

It’s a powerful piece of advice, one of the most basic survival tools and something we were told as soon as we were able to walk free of a guiding hand. But it’s something many of us Temple students have forgotten: Look both ways before crossing.
Every day, I see peers cross Main Campus streets blindly, and cell phone use has a lot to do with their lack of attention. I’m not the only one to notice what a danger it is to everyone – it’s been the cause for repeated campaigns, the formation of specific committees and a focus of freshman orientations and seminars.Brittany-Thomas

“We have seen a slight increase in people – not just students but a number of people, including staff – around the campus, that have been hit by vehicles,” said Charles Leone, Temple’s deputy director of the Health and Safety Committee. Leone attributed the increase in pedestrian-vehicle accidents to the growing population on Main Campus as well as one thing we can’t seem to live without: technology.

We all know how frustrating it can be traveling from one class to the next, especially during the congested hours.

Text-walkers definitely make things a whole lot worse. While I was probably guilty of this in the past, bicycling has become my main mode of transportation to Main Campus, and I’ve since adopted a new perspective on the street-crossing free-for-all that takes place. Nearly every day, I have close encounters with pedestrians who step onto the streets with their faces buried in their phones.

I waited at the corner of 13th Street and Montgomery Avenue last Wednesday and found a prime example within my first 10 seconds there. I approached sophomore Hope Helmuth because she just crossed the intersection while texting.

“I thought I looked both ways,” she said. “But I really wasn’t thinking about it.”

Many students find themselves swamped with demanding schedules that leave little time to respond to text messages and e-mails, and crossing the street safely isn’t always a top priority. But maybe it’s time to think twice about when and why students decided it was a good idea to cross the street without looking in the first place.

“I guess if you look both ways and make sure no one’s coming, then you’re probably fine, but it’s probably not a good idea,” Helmuth said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone got hit.”

While some might look twice to check for cars before stepping onto the street, bike traffic is also coming through. Many students tend to neglect bikers and continue text-walking without being fully aware of their surroundings.

Plus, if it’s a text message you’re sending, it’s never so urgent that it’s worth taking such a big risk. If you get hit by a bike, leaving you with a huge tire mark across your face, you’re probably not going to make it to that party you’re setting up plans for anyway.

Brittany Wilkerson, a senior psychology major, is a bike commuter who comes across negligent walkers all the time.
“Even if you try to go around them, then all of a sudden, they stop. They freeze, and they mess you up,” she said, adding that she saw a bike accident a day earlier in which an apologetic female student wasn’t paying attention when she caused a male biker to crash.

“Pedestrians have the right of way, but they also have to be considerate and smart about it,” Campus Safety Captain-Patrol Denise Wilhelm said. “Pedestrians know they have the right of way, and sometimes they use that to their advantage. For their safety, they need to cross at a corner. To cross the street in the middle at a diagonal is very difficult for vehicular and bicycle traffic.”

Of course, the story has three sides: There are the pedestrians, the bicyclists and the drivers, and all of them have a fair share of complaining to do about each other. While texting is probably the biggest source of distraction, pedestrians aren’t always to blame for getting run down by bikes.

“We also have students riding their bikes and disregarding pedestrians,” Temple security officer Nathaniel Moore said. “They’ll ride down Polett Walk acting like they’re on Broad Street. They end up running down students because they’re riding around too fast.”

Temple Police Captain Jeffrey  Chapman said crossing-guard duty on Main Campus can be frustrating.
“Some kids listen, and other kids don’t,” he said. “We’ll be pulling traffic through, and then a little bit up the block a student’s cutting diagonal in the middle of the street.”

The Health and Safety Committee put up posters around Main Campus to remind students to “Walk, don’t talk!” in an effort to make people think twice about using their phones and iPods while walking – not only to avoid traffic accidents, but to avoid making oneself vulnerable to criminals as well.

Chapman helps direct freshman orientations and a women’s self-defense class called Rape Aggression Defense, both of which focus on pedestrians being aware of their surroundings by staying off their electronic devices. Chapman said that by doing this, students also avoid advertising their belongings to thieves.

“People have this false sense of security,” Chapman said. “And we try to tell them that you should never let your own personal safety and security become someone else’s responsibility. Yeah, we’re paying to try to ensure and maintain safety here, but students need to take their own avoidance measures, and it doesn’t always get through to them.”

Brittany Thomas can be reached at brittany.thomas@temple.edu.

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