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Alderman Seeks To Curb Cell Phone Use While Biking

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Updated 09/14/11 – 6:47 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Texting and driving has been a hot-button issue for years, and now, the Chicago City Council is going to take up distracted bicycle riding.

As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, on most days – especially non-rainy days – many of Chicago’s streets are packed with cyclists getting around the city.

Occasionally, you’ll see them talking on a phone or even trying to send a message. Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) wants to put a stop to that – before it becomes a big problem.

In Chicago, bikes are everywhere and cell phones are like fifth appendages. But if the two come together, it could mean trouble.

“Clearly, it’s a bad idea. Not a good idea,” said Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, which promotes biking. Burke said the group is throwing its support behind Laurino’s idea.

Under the proposal, bicyclists would operate under the same rules as drivers – no texting, no e-mailing, no surfing, no phone conversations, while riding. The only exception would be with the use of a hands-free device.

“We’re meeting with the alderman and her staff on Monday to go over the language and offer some, I think, relatively minor suggestions for improving it, but on the whole we like it,” Burke said.

Some avid bikers were quick to put the brakes on the idea.

“It’s pretty stupid. I mean people can do whatever they want to do,” one cyclist said.

But others said, why not?

“I think if it’s a problem there should be something done about it. An ordinance is a good idea, but how are you gonna enforce that,” Robert Gonzalez said.

It’s a valid question. Spend a few minutes on any corner and you’ll easily spot drivers using cell phones without hands-free devices – with no police car in pursuit. If that’s still a regular occurrence, is enforcing a new bike law even feasible?

“Anything that has to do with public safety, we would take a look at and probably endorse,” said Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

As proposed now, cyclists would get a $50 ticket if texting or talking. If the violation occurs during a crash, the fine would then rise to $500.

The proposal still has to go through committee before the full City Council would even vote on it, so if it becomes a law, it likely wouldn’t happen for at least another couple of months.

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