The Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee has proposed a city ordinance that would allow police officers to ticket people who talk or text on a cell phone while bicycling. The ordinance would require riders to use a hands-free device to use a cell phone while the bike is in motion. The measure is meant to reduce the number of collisions with motor vehicles and pedestrians.
Distracted driving has garnered nationwide attention recently. Thousands of fatal car and truck accidents have been attributed to drivers who were distracted by calls or test messages. In response, several states have enacted laws banning drivers from texting or talking on cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. This law would bring the restrictions facing cyclists into line with those facing drivers. It also helps to reinforce the message that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers when using the road.
Several pro-cyclist advocacy groups have registered their support for the measure. Distracted driving poses an obvious threat to cyclists. They are often the victims of drivers who were not paying proper attention to the road. They are happy to outlaw a practice that is no safer for them than it is for motorists.
Under the initial proposal, a first offense by a cyclist would merit a fine between $20 and $50. Subsequent offenses would result in higher fines. If a cyclist was involved in an accident while texting or talking without a hands-free device, the fine could be as much as $500. Whether or not the ordinance passes, cyclists should be aware of the hazards posed by texting and biking. The practice is unsafe and the consequences to pedestrians and to the cyclist can be catastrophic.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Texting while bicycling in Chicago could soon equal a ticket," 3 October 2011