Philadelphia is frequently known as the “City of Firsts.” This weekend — April 1st, to be exact — the city embraced the title once again with the world’s first designated lane for distracted pedestrians, a tongue-in-cheek solution to a real problem.
Carmello Navarro, waiting beside a pair of bus shelters on the corner is practically the inspiration for the new lane.
Texting “friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, everybody,” she’s standing right outside the newly painted white lines running down the middle of this downtown block, marking a space specifically for “distracted walkers,” those walking and texting.
Navarro says she likes the idea of a lane just for texting.
“I would definitely use that. I definitely would,” said Navarro, “because it’s better. So I would have protection, instead of being texting and get – you know what I mean?”
The official launch of the so-called E-Lane takes place a few feet away, under a yellow sign with an icon of a texting pedestrian.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was there to initiate the pilot project in a press conference.
“This effort, the E-Lane a first in any major city in the country once again reestablishing Philadelphia as a leader in the vanguard of public safety,” Nutter said.
This line, which, by the way, is kind of an April Fool’s Joke –- was the brainchild of Rina Cutler, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities. Cutler said she was tired of seeing people texting and driving, texting and biking, and especially people texting and walking.
“With their heads down,” Cutler exclaims, “busy emailing and texting and paying absolutely no attention when they cross the street. And I mean they don’t even lift their heads to cross the street.”
Cutler gave the lane an inaugural run using her Blackberry, followed by Mayor Nutter, who then directed the first phone-wielding citizen to use the lane. She was a confused-looking woman with a cell-phone and a stroller.
Soon enough another texting pedestrian comes along, unintentionally putting the lane to use, “texting on my phone completely obliviously to these markers here,” as Matt Reloaded explains.
“Until it was explained to me I had no idea this was a texting lane. That’s so funny.”
“Are they going to put them all over the city?”
Learning it was actually an April Fool’s Day joke, Reloaded sighed and said he wasn’t too disappointed.
Philadelphia’s distracted pedestrian lane will be up all week.