City Council could ban cell phones for bicyclists

September 14, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Cars and bicycles share the same roads. Now, they might share some of the same rules if City Council approves a proposal by 39th Ward Alderman Marge Laurino. Her office calls it a "common sense ordinance" which would ban talking on hand-held cell phones or texting while riding. Those are the same rules that are already in place for motorists.

"I'd be absolutely fine with that. There is a lot of young people who aren't used to biking in a city yet and they just throw themselves on a bike and throw themselves into a lot of trouble," said Matt Andres, bicyclist.

"I think some of the bikers that are on their phones should not be on them 'cause they're reckless and could endanger themselves or someone else," said Pete Macleod, bicyclist.

The proposal has the support of the Active Transportation Alliance which promotes biking, walking and mass transit use. But executive director Ron Burke says a main concern is how police would prioritze the enforcement of the ordinance.

"We prefer to see them really focus on distracted driving, because while biking distracted or driving distracted are both bad ideas, clearly the risks are a lot higher when someone's driving a car," said Burke.

Brian Steele with the Chicago Department of Transportation says any effort to improve safety is a step in the right direction.

"Distraction is an issue no matter the mode of transportation, whether you're driving a car, riding a bike or walking the city streets, we see far too many people not paying attention to what they're doing," said Steele.

At this point, there's no data that shows how many accidents involving bikes were caused by distracted bicyclists. But the proposal is coming at a time when more and more people are using bikes as their main mode of transportation and plans are in place to install 100 miles of protected bike lanes throughout the city.

Hearings on the proposal are expected within the next couple of months.

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