The Commute: Public Safety in a Mobile Age
One new practice in my life is taking advantage of New York City’s shared bike program, Citi Bike. At least twice a day, to and from home and the office, I negotiate the designated bike lanes on Manhattan streets. Part exercise, convenience, sustainability, and time and cost savings, I choose to ride a bike for many great reasons. However, when I arrive at my destination, I’m also exhilarated from near-death experiences.
A good number of them are mobile related.
You pay very close attention to goings on when you’re on a bike inches from trucks, buses, taxi drivers – and now Uber Escalades – with no respect for bike lanes and those of us in it. Many people driving vehicles, hailing cabs and limos, riding other bikes, or just walking across the street (often against a light, or not even in a crosswalk) are transfixed to whatever mobile device they happen to be using, and are often smack dab in a clearly marked bike lane whenever they do so.
I see it all – daily: Texting while driving. Opening car and truck doors while looking at their smartphones, instead of what’s in their path. Singing out loud to portable music and headphones – with little or no awareness to much of anything else – or, in much the same way, carrying on with important mobile conversations about "him," "her" or some other unfolding drama, as if public theater. “Bike lane? No, it’s my personal sidewalk.”
It may be just a 15-minute ride, but by the time I park my bike, I usually have had about 15 mobile-distracted incidents to steer around. Once I take the last few steps as a pedestrian to my office building door, I encounter a couple more. Mobile users often are oblivious to those trying to get somewhere around them.
Can we multi-task safely with our mobile devices? When one of those multiple tasks happens to be transport – getting from Point A to Point B – I tend to doubt it.
I’m certain Millennials in New York City know no other reality. But there was a day when Manhattan sidewalks were a science in efficiency – fast walkers, slow walkers and maneuvering around batches of tourists. We didn’t have bike programs or bike lanes back then, or mobile devices either. And commuting was never so exciting.