In New York State, it’s already illegal for you to text or talk on a cell phone while driving. That’s why Bluetooth headsets seem like part of the standard equpiment for cab drivers. And if Brooklyn councilman Mark Treyger gets his way, soon, it’ll be illegal for bicyclists to use their cellphones while on the road.
The bill, which Treyger is introducing to the City Council on Thursday, would make New York City the biggest city to ban texting and biking. Chicago passed a similar law in 2011, issuing fines to first offenders. The Brooklyn bill is less punitive: Cyclists caught texting who do not cause injury or accident would only be required to take a bike safety course. If injury or accident is involved, only then would the parties get a $50 fine.
“I was shocked to learn there is no law in New York that prohibits such a reckless practice,” Treyger told the New York Post. He drafted the bill, he told the paper, after witnessing a texting cyclist nearly cause a huge traffic accident.
Certainly legislation that keeps jerk cyclists from veering into intersections while attempting to select the right emoji is worthwhile. There are plenty of people out there who are reckless cyclists, just as there are reckless drivers. But it’s also worth considering the way that most people use their phones while they bike. I usually have mine at the ready in my pocket to look for directions (though I don’t pull it out in moving traffic, obviously.) Would the law basically give NYPD license to ticket or warn anyone with a bike and a phone together? Given the “broken windows” policy that the NYPD operates by, it’s a law that could result in a whole lot of petty fines, and almost certainly another incident with Alec Baldwin. The law is worthwhile, but it’s the way that it will be enforced that’s going to be interesting.