The World at Large

Moving to the US

Thursday, September 07, 2006


People use mobile phones (cell phones) everywhere here. That's no surprise. The same applies to the UK and Australia, and probably most developed countries. However, there are occasions when I'm surprised nonetheless.

I'm really surprised to see how often people use cell phones in the car, and I'm only commenting on the ones I can see holding a phone to their ear. I believe it's against the law here (though I'm not certain), but that's not a deterrent. I've also commented on someone using one during the triathlon, which just seemed strange. But the craziest I've seen have been cyclists.

I'm all for cycling. Cars are a significant source of pollution around the world, so any reduction in their use has to be a good thing. Now that our bikes have arrived (it only took 6 months, along with all out clothes) I've been occasionally using them to get around.

Chicago is a very accessible city by bike. It is completely flat, and there are bike paths and bike lanes all over the place. The most prominent path is along the lake, which is close to our place. Lots of people cycle about (including the mayor), and the city just recently announced a plan to upgrade the cycling infrastructure to make it safer and easier to get around that way. With the price of fuel skyrocketing, it makes a lot of sense to use alternative forms of transportation. So in general, anyone on a bike has my support.

Anyone except people on a cell phone.

I'm amazed at the number of times I've seen cyclists on residential streets or footpaths (sidewalks) who have been chatting away with only one hand on the handlebars. Studies may have shown that you have reduced reaction time in a car while on a cell phone, but on a bike you have less control, and you can't even turn your head properly. Even ignoring cars, it's easy to have a nasty accident on a bike.

Last week I watched one woman nearly fall off trying to cross a road on her bike while speaking on her phone. She had major difficulty trying to get back up the ramp onto the footpath while only using one hand on the handlebars. This was also in an area where riding on the footpath was illegal (fine and disabling of the bike). It sounds extreme, but it's actually pretty typical.

Maybe it's just me, but I think these people are nuts.


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