Last evening I went for a walk, heading north to the Sac Northern trail, then the American River Parkway to Discovery Park, then across the Jibboom Bridge and into old town. I’d certainly seen bicyclists and a few walkers, but when I got to old town, there were hundreds of people walking around. I noticed they almost all had cell phones in hand, not that unusual, but still. I headed south along the river and saw yet more people. Then back along R Street where there were few people, until I got to the main part of R Street, and then into Fremont Park where there were yet more people. Remember, this was a Monday night largely after sunset, when I might see 10 people out walking in an evening, and I’d already seen at least 300. What was going on?

Well, you more culturally/technologically literate already know, but it took me some time to figure out. Pokemon GO! All of these people were playing the game on smart phones, looking for pokemons (is that the correct plural?).

I had heard a bit about the game, but didn’t realize it was taking the country by storm. Today, there were more prominent articles on all the media, even showing up on my main two news sources, Streetsblog and Strong Towns. I sat at Karma Brew with a Rasputin, and observed the goings-on in the park and along the streets.

So, what I saw, that I liked:

  1. People were out walking on a night when I would not usually see anyone. This means these people were getting physical activity when they would otherwise be in front of TV or computer.
  2. People were walking, looking at their smart phones, but they had their heads up, looking around, with the phone in their field of view but not their sole focus. Unlike most users whose heads are down and completely oblivious to what is around them. I’m not going to claim walking with a phone is safe, but I will say what I saw last night is significantly safer than what many people already do.
  3. People were talking to people in other groups, interacting with people they didn’t know. This is quite unusual. Even at bars and coffee shops, where people theoretically to to socialize, most people hang with their own group and do not interact much if at all with others.
  4. I heard people making comments like “I never knew that was there,” and “I always wondered what that was.” They were seeing things with new eyes. I am not sure how much of this discovery is designed into the app, but whatever is there results in people looking.
  5. People were hanging out in gathering places, old town, the promenade, R Street, Fremont Park. Again, whatever the design, this is where the pokemons were.
  6. People were not drinking. I have no problem with drinking, as long as you don’t drive, but I have to admit is was great to see so many people having such a good time without drinking.

As with any new technology, and any new social media, there will be hiccups. But on the whole I can see so many positives to this latest fad. I think I’m going to try it myself, though obviously not on my backpack trips. No pokemons out there!

About Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

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walkability

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