Skip to Content
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Log In
Streetsblog USA

Honolulu City Council Wants Tighter Distraction Rules for Pedestrians Than for Drivers

10:57 AM PDT on July 19, 2017

I know. Can you believe this bill? Image: KHON

Finally, someone in power is scapegoating pedestrians. On Friday, the Honolulu City Council passed a bill that would ban people from looking at cell phones and other electronic devices while crossing the street. Even though people on foot can't really harm anyone but themselves, it's a stricter standard than the state of Hawaii applies to people driving multi-ton vehicles through city intersections.

The bill would prohibit people from "viewing a mobile electronic device" while crossing the street. Fines would range from $15 to $35 for a first violation, $35 to $75 for a second violation, and $75 to $99 for a third or subsequent violation.

Council Member Brandon Elefante, who sponsored the anti-pedestrian measure, told CNN he got the idea from local high school students:

"These high school groups were concerned for their peers being distracted while crossing the streets and looking at their phones instead of looking both ways," Elefante said. "The advancement of technology can sometimes be a distraction and cause people to not pay attention."

While Hawaii has a state law prohibiting drivers from using electronic devices with their hands, it doesn't ban the act of glancing at mobile devices like this bill does. Honolulu drivers can take their eyes off the road to look at their dash-mounted devices, issue voice commands, and so forth while plowing through an intersection.

Despite the good intentions of local high school students and the City Council, in practice this bill could be quite insidious. If it's signed into law, a pedestrian could have the right of way, be struck by a driver, and still receive a ticket for using a cell phone in the crosswalk, even though it's the driver who should have yielded.

Like jaywalking, which police often used as a pretext to stop people of color, such a law would also be especially prone to selective enforcement.

The bill now goes to the desk of Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who has not expressed an opinion on the measure. He has until July 28 to make a decision.

While the city's elected officials debate whether or not they should penalize pedestrians, proven changes to keep Honolulu walkers safe are under attack. Curb extensions and bollards installed as part of a pilot project in the city's Chinatown have been targeted by local businesses and neighborhood grouches, including former Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, who has an office in the area.

"These things are dangerous, they are useless, and aesthetically, they're the ugliest things I've ever seen," Abercrombie said.

Local resident Lynne Matusow cut to the point in an opinion piece blasting the pedestrian safety measures. "Those who want to drop by to pick up a lei or food cannot find parking," she wrote. "All in the name of pedestrian safety!"

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog Los Angeles

This Week In Livable Streets

Montebello bike plan, Midnight Ridazz, C Line construction, Alhambra transit, El Monte's Garvey Avenue plans, and more.

February 26, 2024

CicLAvia Melrose Open Thread

CicLAvia hosts its 50th open streets event - on four miles of Melrose Avenue from East Hollywood to Fairfax

February 26, 2024

Metro and Caltrans Quietly Canceled 110 Freeway Expansion Project

The 110 Freeway Adams Terminus Improvement Project would have extended a 2000+foot long ramp from below 28th Street to Figueroa Street near USC

February 23, 2024
See all posts