Pokémon Go craze 'interrupting our sightseeing,' Ottawa tourist says

Amy Biebrich brought her young family from Winnipeg to see the historic sites of Ottawa — but her kids are more concerned with catching a Pokémon.

'Biggest fear is that someone will die,' paramedic says as players roam streets with faces buried in phones

Evan Biebrich (left) and his sister Paige (right) are searching for Pokémon on Parliament Hill during their vacation in Ottawa from Winnipeg. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Amy Biebrich brought her young family from Winnipeg to see the historic sites of Ottawa — but her kids are more concerned with catching a Pokémon.

"We're wandering around looking for Pokémons, interrupting our sightseeing. Instead of actually seeing what we're supposed to see, we're now looking for little creatures and hatching eggs," she said. "I'm not a big fan. I wish that they'd be more focused on seeing the history that's sitting here in front of us."

Pokémon Go, a new "augmented reality" smartphone game that layers the virtual universe on the real world, forces gamers to leave their couch to catch their favourite critters, like Pikachu and Meowth.

Hotspots to find Pokémon in Ottawa include Parliament Hill and Confederation Park.

But navigating urban landscapes with your face buried in your phone has its dangers.

"I don't want my kids to get hit by a car," Biebrich said.

It's a concern shared by Ottawa Paramedic Services spokesman J.P. Trottier.

"Biggest fear is that someone will die. Someone will cross the street not see the vehicle, not see the cyclist. You have to be aware of your surroundings at all times and being glued to your phone certainly does not help," he said.
Ottawa Paramedic Services spokesman J.P. Trottier. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

"Just tripping, falling, not seeing curbs or stairs. Even a simple fall off a curb could be extremely dangerous if you hit your head first."

Still, Mark Biebrich said the game is helping his family log a lot of kilometres in Ottawa.

"We went out for ice cream and we ended up walking for hours down various streets of Ottawa, looking for Pokémon all over the place," he said. "We could have sat in the hotel all night, but instead we were out until 11:30 p.m. walking around the various sites."

Police warn about crimes of opportunity

Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Michael Harbosch said he's worried about would-be thieves targeting people who are walking around staring at their screens — but said no such crimes of opportunity have been reported yet. 

"These devices continue to be one of the most common targeted items that we see being taken during our street-level robberies, during our personal robberies and swarmings. These phones are right up there in what's being targeted," he said.

"Walking around having your face buried in an app and not necessarily being completely aware of what is going on around you and who may be watching ... You've got to be aware of your surroundings."