A Ban on Walking with Music?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

You've probably had the experience of walking along and negotiating around someone who is walking slowly, weaving or bumping into other pedestrians for an obvious reason: He or she is talking on a listening to an iPod, texting or chatting on a phone.

New York state Senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) has introduced legislation to stem this practice -- what he calls "tuning in and tuning out." He wants to make it illegal to use an electronic device while crossing a city street on foot. The idea may not actually become a law, but if it does, it couldĀ mean a $100 ticket for listening to an MP3 player.

What do you think about the practice of walking and listening to classical music? Take our poll and leave a comment below.


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Comments [34]

Stephen from NYC

I've lived in NYC for over 15 years. I have some Ideas for other citations.

1. $100 fine for pedestrians who can't walk in a straight line.

2. $100 fine for Pedestrians who just stand in the street waiting to cross.(If you do this, don't laugh, I've saved at least a dozen people over the time I've been here who do this.)

3. $50 Fine for Walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk or crosswalk while crossing the street. boats pass on the right, why can NYers?

All fun aside, Things I've NEVER seen in this city.

1. A Bicyclist getting a ticket for:
a. no helmet (actually I saw it 1 time)
b. Riding in the wrong direction.
c. Running Red Lights
d. Riding on Sidewalks.

2. Pedestrians who smoke and liter by throwing their buts in the street/sidewalk (that's littering)
b. Smoking next to someone who doesn't smoke. (if smoking is so dangerous and the science behind second hand smoke is so deadly, than shouldn't I be able to sew for endangering the health of someone else? ME!)

It is Illegal for cab drivers to talk on ANY phone while driving.

I hope everyone has a laugh because for the most part, NYPD have better things to do with their time than this petty crap. In the mean time I will continue to where my BOSE NOISE CANCELLATION HEADPHONES while living in this loud and amazing city like I've been doing for over 15 years with out 1 Accident. WHY, because I use common sense and I pay attention

Feb. 09 2011 11:35 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

There is a law against that -


There should be a law against getting out of bed - and a law requiring bed belts while in bed. Helmet too.

Back to reality.. There should be a law preventing former politicians from dealing with the government after they leave office, for say, five years. Businesses have employment contracts like that. Why not the government? People give up the right to strike when they go to work for the government. Why not restrictions on politicians? Using the same argument against striking, they don't have to work for the government. If they choose to then they should also agree to the restrictions. End the revolving door between elected office and corporate office.

Oh. Sorry. I thought I was trying to deal with reality.

Feb. 07 2011 08:23 PM
Fred M.Wiesenfeld from Sheepshead Bay,Brooklyn

The bill proposed by State Senator Carl Kruger is a joke.He is in my district and I have been in his office several times with
more important civil disobediences.
I have witnessed people riding bycycles
on the bike lanes on Bedford Ave.They were wearing head phones and pedaling along.This is more dangerous, as a bycycle can cause physical injury to a
pedestrian crossing the bike lane.
I would advise the Senator to pass a
law forbiding taking money from citizens in return for political favors.
This is more in line and makes more sense then restricting citizens of a walking
pleasure.Senator Kruger is well aquainted
with doing favors in exchange for a monetary reward.

Feb. 06 2011 10:26 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

You're thinking in terms of safety. None of what's happening in the city relates to safety or facilitating alternate modes of travel.

The bike and bus lanes are there to remove regular motorized traffic lanes and impede movement. Make it a pain to drive in Manhattan (this is also happening in the outer boroughs).

You think cyclists don't get tickets?


This is a message from the mayor to cyclists that they aren't really welcome in Central Park.

The bus lanes on 1st Avenue are camera enforced. You'll be photographed using them and then get a ticket in the mail. Smile!

They're also in effect 24/7/365 (downtown and uptown - not midtown). You better not use the bus lane at 3AM on a Sunday (Monday morning). But but it's to facilitate mass transit movement?

Congestion could easily be eliminated in Manhattan. Impose a 30% sales tax below 96th St. But that would mean the people that want the city in the clouds would have to pay for it. Why do that when you might be able to force others to pay?

Kinda like the financial crisis and the remedies used.

Feb. 06 2011 07:59 PM
Dirk from Brooklyn

Part of what's needed more than laws is some kind of public education campaign and wider public discussion about pedestrian behavior. It's happening with cyclists who go the wrong way on one-way streets now. For instance, why do some pedestrians in NY feel they should wait to cross the street not on the curb but three feet out into traffic. Does that really speed up your day and get you to your destination so much quicker? Or how about the people who don't adhere to basic "stay right" etiquette when walking on a sidewalk. Seems like a no-brainer but so many people feel they can just walk down the middle even when faced with oncoming pedestrian traffic. It's the height of self-absorbed arrogance quite often.

Back to headphones, I think it's just one symptom of a larger question about how people act towards others in a civil society. Listen to music, fine. But also be cognizant of your surroundings.

Feb. 06 2011 06:27 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

This is buffalo chips. The city simply does not ticket pedestrians. If it did the budget crisis would be solved. And the streets would be safer.

Think about the fences near the curbs on 6th Ave at Radio City or Saks Fifth Ave. Ever see a pedestrian get a ticket for bypassing them and not using the offset crosswalk?

One day I was driving west on East 33rd St trying to make a right turn into the Park Ave tunnel. Blocking me was a pedestrian whot had just climbed over concrete barriers that were put there to prevent crossing at that point. As I waited for him to pass he approached my window and told me he didn't think I could continue going straight not realizing I was trying to enter the tunnel - with him in my way.

This was one of the most dangerous crossings in Manhattan. Regularly pedestrians were hit by southbound cars exiting the tunnel. Southbound tunnel traffic has since been ended. Yet geniuses still cross there and think it's OK.

So let's have another law that's ignored.

All the changes that are happening on the city's streets - bike lanes, bus lanes and gardens in the center of aves. They're not for cyclists, bus travel (the city added bus lanes but removed bus stops) or agriculture. They're there to make driving in the city as difficult and dangerous as possible.

I can't be serious! Dangerous?

Why embed "church bells" on concrete islands in the middle of streets? Why change the traffic flow on Northern Blvd entering the 59th St Bridge so that an elevated subway support beam sits directly in the middle of the traffic? Why put a painted bike path at the south end of 2nd Ave that passes in the middle of the avenue exactly where traffic must cross over to continue east, west or south - to two bridges and a tunnel?

The city has finally begun to put back the sidewalk traffic lights on Park Ave between 46th and 57th Streets. Why were they ever removed? Regularly I saw pedestrians step from the center mall into moving traffic. There weren't any traffic lights ahead of them telling them not to. The lone intersection traffic light was over their shoulders, behind them, ten feet above.

Who decided to extend corner curbs so that pedestrians are right next to moving traffic? In many cases it's now an effort to avoid hitting a curb - and any pedestrian on it.

Clue. Parked cars next to a curb are a better protection than a 4 inch curb inches from traffic.

Have a look at the intersection of Hicks and Joralemon Streets in Brooklyn Heights. It has diagonally opposite extended corners such that drivers can no longer go straight on a straight street - Hicks - but must zigzag to pass and avoid hitting the corner curbs. It's also a point where elementary school aged children get dropped off and picked up for school. I guess they're safer now.

This started when Mayor Bloomberg had his proposed congestion pricing (EZ-Pass) for motorized Manhattan traffic rejected by the state.

But it ain't personal.

Feb. 05 2011 09:39 PM
John Morgan

Has to be a another Democrat who believe the public has to be protected from evry possible prolem even if it denies individual liberties.

Feb. 05 2011 02:01 PM

If people are seriously considering putting this inane, ridiculous law, then at least they should be consistent: Speaking on the phone while crossing the street, eating a pizza (or any other food) while crossing the street, talking to your friend right next to you while crossing the street should also be penalized. After all they are as likely to be distracting.

Feb. 04 2011 03:57 PM
Kathy of Aragon from Aragon

All for it. There's a place for everything and the street's not it.

Feb. 04 2011 02:59 PM
Jane Gennaro from New York City

I think all technical devices should be used only in specified areas... and the rest of public spaces should be free from the visual and audio spillover polluting the atmosphere.

Feb. 04 2011 02:32 PM
Robert Rowe

Absolutely STUPID legislation.

Feb. 04 2011 10:34 AM
M:ichael Meltzer

Neal Schnall is correct in separating ipods from cell phones and in dismissing the "hand-held" or "non-hand-held" controversy. I have one vivid memory that, to me, sums it all up.
I was walking north on Sixth Avenue approaching W. 58th just after sundown. My light was green, as I was about to cross, a car came drifting east on W. 58th at about 15 MPH, driving through its red traffic light, illegally crossing Sixth Avenue, headlights and taillights off, driver with left hand on the wheel, right hand holding what looked like a cellphone and he looked like he was talking to it. Luckily for him, no cars travelling north on Sixth Avenue.
He didn't really need two hands, he needed two brains, but he only had one and it was on the phone.

Feb. 04 2011 03:12 AM
Shadeed Ahmad from New York City

With all the desired legislation to remove certain levels of sensory pleasures there definitely needs to be adequate options to reconcile the loss of freedoms.

If government is truly for the people there needs to be classical music being played in the subways and at other venues to relieve stress. We are living in extremely stressful times and unfortunately in an effort to circumvent the problem some people are all to willing to take the chance of endangering themselves and others for relief.

Legislating another way to fleece New Yorkers out of more dollars with a ban on headphones is just creating more stress on people and ultimately shows the relentless remiss of the government's intelligence and/or desire to be for the people. Most likely anyone who is bold enough to suggest a ban on headphones is congested beyond reprive of any true understanding of the healing power of music.

Feb. 04 2011 02:22 AM
Michael Meltzer

Neil is correct on our "culture." "Bicycle safety" when I was growing up meant equipping your bike with a horn or bell, a headlight that could be seen for 300 feet and staying off the sidewalks if you were over the age of 12. Now, "bicycle safety" means wearing a helmet and kneepads, it no longer has a interactive connotation.
On a less serious linguistic note, the expression, "walk and chew gum" is only a journalistic euphemism for what President Nixon said about Gerald Ford, that he "could not (verb meaning to expel an atmosphere offensive to the nostrils) and chew gum at the same time." Colorful but unprintable at the time, as it would be here.

Feb. 03 2011 07:43 PM
Neil Schnall

Srsly, I think the ones using electronics on the street who are most oblivious to their surroundings are the ones talking on their cellphones, not so much people listening to their iPods or whatevers. It was the element of distraction that was cited during the foofaraw over drivers' use of cellphones. On the other hand, I'm not sure the use of a hands-free system would ameliorate that.

On the other other hand, our NYC culture has become increasingly boorish, selfish, and insensitive. People on the street frequently do not seem to care if they bump into others or commit other infractions. Everyone looking out for themself. It's difficult, in the face of that, not to become so oneself, out of a sheer need to survive. Pity!

Feb. 03 2011 06:07 PM
L. Lubin from Fort Lee, NJ

Since the invention of the Walkman in the late 70s we've all had the pleasure of choosing a soundtrack for our lives. After more than 40 years this bozo wants to take that away from us? Apart from its unenforcablity, will he ban chewing gum for those who can't while walking?
Most people who listen to music in public wear small earbuds or other light weight headphones which allow plenty of ambient sound through. Noise-canceling headphones might actually present a hazard, so might an emotionally charged conversation, electronic or live.
Will Rep. Kruger legislate stupidity next? What was that, the sound of stnes cast against glass houses?

Feb. 03 2011 05:54 PM
:Michael Meltzer

It must be near thirty years since ramps were excavated into NYC crosswalk curbs for wheelchair access. We see few wheelchairs, but bicycles use the ramps to illegally ride the sidewalks, police take NO notice (I believe they've been told to stay away from situations where they would have to see a Green Card). Police take no notice of drivers entering intersections without clearance on the other side or drivers making turns without using directionals. Taxicabs will tailgate a bicycle or a roller-skater through an intersection after the light has turned red with poice standing by.
When our police force decides which laws it will enforce and which ones it won't, why bother to pay salaries to a state legislature? Let the police make the laws, like they did in the USSR.

Feb. 03 2011 05:19 PM
Janet from Brooklyn

Yes. But it is never so loud that I can't hear the sounds around me. And being a city person, I am always aware of traffic lights and intersections.

Feb. 03 2011 03:14 PM
Neil Schnall

It's a cynical ploy to get attention - and IT HAS WORKED! - here we are discussing it. I'm sure Kruger knows well enough this won't get anywhere.
Of course it's unenforceable. We already have legislation about cellphone use whilst driving, using headlights when wipers are on, etc. Not only do those not get enforced either... and I've occasionally made a point of counting the number of drivers with headlights off but wipers on (about 1 in 4-5 generally), but the cop cars are almost always amongst them.
Please, folks, do let us know if you have, or anyone you know has, ever been summonsed for that, or cellphone use behind the wheel. Anyone?

Feb. 03 2011 02:53 PM
Johanna from Toronto

Soon after acquiring my mp3 player, I discovered that I needed to operate it considerably more loudly outdoors or on transit, than in a quieter environment. To prevent hearing damage, I regretfully no longer use it out.

Feb. 03 2011 01:15 PM
MaryC from Westchester

It would be impossible to enforce while there is already frequent jaywalking, locking the box, running red lights, using the phone while driving and many more irresponsible / illegal acts.

Feb. 03 2011 10:53 AM
Frank from US of A

I love how all of the Tea Party anti-government types come out of the woodwork whenever there's a discussion about how to manage people's behavior. Smoking is now illegal in many public places. Why not dangerous devices? I applaud the senator here.

Feb. 03 2011 10:48 AM
H. Brakel

While i agree that it is dangerous to cross the street while speaking on a cell phone without paying attention to traffic, i think this suggestion is an enormous overreach. I wish officials of all stripes would stay out of people's daily lifes.

Feb. 03 2011 10:21 AM

Absolutely ridiculous to "legislate" listening to music! If safety is the concern, people should use common sense. I take more offense to using good music as background music. You really can't - it takes concentration. A thing of beauty is a mood-changing experience. Therefore.....you should be able to be in a position to handle it.....!!!

Feb. 03 2011 10:19 AM
Anne C from New York City

Walking while listening to music is no more dangerous than having your car radio on while driving.

No, if you're talking about texting or e-mailing while walking, that's another story.

Feb. 03 2011 10:08 AM
Larry Lyons from Rutherford

If, possible, this is even more dangerous than talking on a telephone while driving; certianly it is in the same league.

I can't tell you how many times, I've come close to hitting a pedestrian who is so rapped up in theswe things, that they simply walk into traffic, looking neither to the left nor right, and probably not even straigh ahead.

If you're driving, make sure your brakes are in tiptop shape; - you'll need them.

Feb. 03 2011 09:16 AM
Sibern from Brooklyn


Feb. 03 2011 08:16 AM
shadeed ahmad from New York City

The over riding motive for this legislation smells of another way to squeeze money out of the public. Where was all of this pseudo-enlightenment during the walkman phenomena? The market is being flooded with all sorts of electronic devices and it is becoming a sea of opportunity for inundating and penalizing the public for their biting into commercialism gone wild. The addiction for sensual gratification in these ultra stressful times can not be kicked and people are willing to be taxed and/or fined to be able to participate in the deceptively designed matrix of lost inner peace.

Feb. 03 2011 01:57 AM
Pamela Lewis

It is hard for me to listen to and appreciate music (especially classical) while walking because it interferes with my concentration. Although not ideal, either, I sometimes listen during my commute to and from work - but only if I have a seat.

Feb. 02 2011 09:05 PM
maddy from new york city

Never, I don't own an ipod and I'm disabled so I rarely go anywhere on foot.

Feb. 02 2011 08:14 PM
John Walter from Middle Village NY

I never have my volume high enough to drown out city sounds. In fact when I listen to classical music I can still hear (unfortunately) others playing different music/noise or people screaming on their cell phones. Classical music is soothing, not dangerous.

Feb. 02 2011 07:18 PM

I don't find it particularly distracting from my surroundings, but I do find the surroundings detract from the music. I listen religiously to my iPod while commuting on the LIRR but not while walking.

Feb. 02 2011 07:05 PM
Michael Meltzer

I'm a pedestrian, I walk everywhere and quite a bit. For years, no one ever bumped into me on the street. Now, for the last couple of years, at least every month or so, someone has bumped into me on the street, and in EVERY case there's an electronic device of some kind in use.
I'm not sure I agree with the government being alowed to intrude that far into our behavior, but there's no question that a real problem needs some kind of addressing. The media should get involved and do some educating.

Feb. 02 2011 07:00 PM
Marti Lewis from Manhattan

That's a ridiculous proposal. How would they enforce it?

I don't have it loud enough not to hear what's going on around me. Without it, I'd hear too much of others' phone chat. Horns honking and sirens hurt my ears, so I need some sort of barrier -- can still hear the noise out there, but the headphones make it tolerable.

I use my cell phone as little as possible -- only in emergencies or if someone is calling me with work.

Feb. 02 2011 06:46 PM

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