The days when cyclists could get away with doing things those in a car could not are soon to be over in Chicago, where the city’s aldermen have agreed to “level the playing field” by banning cyclists from talking or texting on a cell phone (unless they have a hands-free device) while riding a bike.
The ordinance, which has now been approved by the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety of the City Council, sees a graduated scale of fines, beginning with $20 to $50 for a first offence before upping to as much as $500 for those who cause a traffic accident by doing so.
Committee Chairman Marge Laurino admits that the ordinance could prove difficult to enforce, but believes it is time that cyclists should be made to obey the same road rules that motorists have had to follow for several years now. “I’ve actually seen people riding and texting with both hands,” she says. “I’m not quite sure how they do that.”
While the Active Transportation Alliance has expressed reservations that the new crackdown on cyclists will mean the existing bans will get even less attention from Chicago Police, the Department’s deputy chief at Area 3 patrol, Matthew Tobias, says that it just not going to be the case. “I can assure you that’s not gonna happen,” he insists. “The enforcement of texting while driving and talking on a cell phone has risen every single year since that was passed.”