Texting or talking on a cell phone while driving a motor vehicle is against the law in Chicago. It’s contrary to municipal ordinance and also a violation of state law. If fact, over 30 states have some form of texting or cell phone ban because of the documented dangers of distracted driving.
But what about distracted biking? There is growing concern that bicyclists in Chicago become so distracted by texting or cell phone conversations that they, too, are putting themselves and others at risk of traffic accidents.
The Chairman of the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety of the Chicago City Council is convinced that the problem is severe enough to require a response from the city. Alderman Marge Laurino has proposed an ordinance that would require bicyclists to follow the same rules against texting or cell phone use while driving that apply to motorists.
“It really is about distracted drivers – no matter what you’re driving,” Laurino said. “I’m looking to make the streets safer for everyone: motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.”
That is definitely the right goal. One question, however, is whether extending a texting and cell phone ban to biking will undercut the enforcement effort against motor vehicles.
Ron Burke of the Active Transportation Alliance, a group that promotes biking, walking and transit use, said he supports the proposed ordinance. But he is concerned about how to enforce it most effectively. He is worried that if Chicago police officers are expected to enforce a ban on texting while biking, that will make them less able to enforce the ban on texting while driving.
Source: Council Proposal: No texting or hand-held cell calls for bicyclists,” Chicago Sun-Times, 9-15-11
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