You would think that people would have enough common sense to refrain from using a cell phone while behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle. But apparently, they don’t – so the state of Illinois enacted a ban on the use of a handheld cell phone while driving.
Apparently, the abovementioned lack of common sense has extended to bicyclists in the city of Chicago. So an alderman is proposing a new ordinance to address that.
Margaret Laurino is pushing for a ban on handheld cell phone use while cycling within the city limits. The alderman from the 39th Ward is promoting legislation which would fine cyclists $50 for a first offense. The bill also calls for penalties of up to $500 if the cell phone use causes an accident.
Some may question the need for such a ban given that bicycles are not likely to injure motorists (like cars driven by distracted drivers can). But it is important to keep in mind that bicyclists can still cause property damage if they collide with a vehicle or other object. Plus, a cyclist could injure a pedestrian while texting – or worse, cause a vehicle to swerve to avoid a collision and crash into someone else.
Even cycling proponents agree that a ban on cell phone use while cycling is a good idea. However, the Active Transportation Alliance’s Ron Burke feels that the law might place an additional burden on the city’s police force, which is already struggling to enforce the state’s ban on handheld cell phone use while driving.
But Laurino’s measure is important for another reason. It would place criminal penalties on texting while cycling, which would be an important factor in any subsequent civil lawsuit which might arise from an accident. For instance, if an elderly woman were struck by a cyclist who was talking on a cell phone, and the victim had to be hospitalized with a concussion, broken bones, and/or internal injuries; her grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the offending cyclist would be strengthened by the existence of a ban on such activities.
The Chicago City Council has indicated that hearings will be held to discuss the proposed ordinance, although they have not yet been scheduled.