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DAVID GREENE, host:

And let's now head to the other side of Keystone State. Starting November 1st in Philadelphia, if you are skateboarding, biking, doing some inline skating, you better put away your cell phone or you better use a hands-free device. It's one of the most far-reaching bans on non-motorists in the nation.

Windsor Johnston from member station WRTI reports.

WINDSOR JOHNSTON: On a hot summer day in downtown Philadelphia, streets are packed with not only drivers but bicyclists, skateboarders and inline skaters.

Walking along the crowded sidewalks, you can't miss these daredevils weaving in and out of traffic, maneuvering aggressively through construction zones, and dodging pedestrians while talking on hand-held cell phones.

In a downtown alley, skateboarders whiz by, twirling and flipping their boards in mid-air. Skater John McCafferty says hand-held or hands-free cell phones really don't make a difference.

Mr. JOHN MCCAFFERTY: So if I have, like, a Double Gulp from 7-Eleven in my hand, and I'm talking on the Bluetooth, that's okay? All right. Well, that's cool.

JOHNSTON: Several bicyclists seeking relief from the sweltering heat in Philadelphia's world-renowned LOVE Park gather around a tree, wiping their brows and drinking Gatorade. Among them, Philadelphia resident Shara Dae, who talks on her cell phone while skateboarding, biking, and while driving her car and a motorcycle. But she says she has the experience to do it safely.

Ms. SHARA DAE: It's just another annoyance. There's just something else now. Now you're going to dictate to me how I should ride my bike and what I should be doing on my bike?

JOHNSTON: Driver Margaret Ciampitti calls bicyclists who talk or text on hand-held cell phones roadway hazards.

Ms. MARGARET CIAMPITTI: I'm driving my car. Kid's on a bicycle. He's texting. He veers off into my car. I give him the horn. He gives me a hand gesture. How dare he do that to me? He's the one who's texting. He's the one that's not paying attention. You know what? I'm glad they're doing this ban before somebody gets killed.

JOHNSTON: Philadelphia has over 200 miles of bike lanes. But the designated lanes did not protect cyclist Michael Stersey from a near-fatal collision with a car.

Mr. MICHAEL STERSEY: Somebody was on their cell phone and they weren't paying attention. They were driving too fast and I got blindsided, because he tried to pass another car.

JOHNSTON: Bruises and all, Stersey still talks on his cell phone while on his bike. But Philadelphia resident Michael Connors strongly supports the cell-phone ban.

Mr. MICHAEL CONNORS: This town has not stepped out to do anything bold in years, decades. And it's about time we did.

JOHNSTON: And the city has. As of November 1st, those caught violating the new law will have to dig deep into their wallets. A first offense will cost $150. Repeat offenders will have to dig even deeper.

For NPR News, I'm Windsor Johnston in Philadelphia.

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