Bikes and Cellphones: Do We Need a Law?

OK. Here’s where the principles of someone who tends to be a libertarian runs smack into a possible government mandate that appears to be based on common sense. Do we really need a law to keep asshats from talking on a cellphone while riding a bicycle?

Here’s the backstory from USA Today, “California bill would ban cellphone use while bicycling“:

LOS ANGELES – Talkative bicyclists beware: A crackdown on cellphone yakking while pedaling is afoot.

California’s Legislature this week sent to Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that stiffens penalities for talking or texting on a cellphone without a hands-free device while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

For the first time, the bill would extend the state’s 3-year-old cellphone ban to bicyclists, though with lesser penalties than motorists face.

Bicycle groups aren’t fighting the ban and say something similar is probably in the future for bicyclists in other states.

Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, the cyclists’ lobby in Washington, says talking on cellphones while moving is a bad idea, whether on four wheels or two.

“We can and should be held to the same standard as people driving cars,” Clarke says. “One needs to be paying attention, both hands on the handlebars.”

He says he expects others to follow California’s lead. “It doesn’t cause me any heartache to see that passed,” Clarke says. “My hope is it will be enforced vigorously.”

State Sen. Joe Simitian, a Democrat from Palo Alto, sponsored the bill and the original law that took effect in 2008. He says data from the California Highway Patrol showed a 20% reduction in fatalities and collisions in California in the first year after it took effect and an immediate 40% drop in the number of accidents attributed to drivers distracted by cellphones.

When I run outside these days, generally in the dark of the early a.m., I never carry along an iPod or similar digital distractions. I prefer to know when a garbage truck is gaining on me. And I can’t imagine interrupting this quiet and thinking time to talk to someone or text them on a cellphone. Ditto when I’m riding my bike in the relative serenity of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Obviously, not everyone agrees.  And if they want to block a tree with their forehead while riding a bike and talking on a cellphone that’s their loss — as long as it doesn’t directly involve me and as long as they have adequate medical insurance coverage.

But folks, it’s dangerous and does put others at risk. So couldn’t we just rely on some common sense here — instead of a government mandate? And for those tethered to their cellphones, iPods, iPads and so on —  why not give it a rest and enjoy the ride?

Enjoy the weekend — and best wishes to those on the East Coast who are waiting for the arrival of Irene.

And I’m getting ready now to go ride my bike — without my cellphone.

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2 responses to “Bikes and Cellphones: Do We Need a Law?

  1. Not just common sense…but really, do we need Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists? Really?? They have their own Lobby??
    I just hope he doesn’t run into the head of the Parcheesi lobby outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office…those dudes are crazy!!!!

    • Yeah, sad but true. Just about every group has a lobbyist or is part of an association. There is even an association for associations. That’s why there is never any recession for the Chattering Classes Inside the Beltway.

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