Tickets floated for phone-weilding cyclists

It was only a matter of time before vehicle laws carried over to include bicyclists. Now the time has come when cyclists may have to put down their cell phones before taking off across town on their bikes.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) proposed legislation that would fine cyclists $20 for riding their bikes while talking on a cell phone. For repeat offenders, a second call on wheels would cost you $30.

Simitian authored the original 2008 cell phone ban for drivers. He said he intended to have cyclists included in the bill, but a drafting error prevented that from happening.

This newest piece of legislation was recently introduced at the state Senate transportation committee. Simitian said:

“This is about equality. Serious cyclists understand that they should have the same obligations as other folks who use the roadway.”

Although the initial fine for bicyclists and motorists are the same, cyclists will be exempt from the local fees and fines which quickly rack up the ticket cost. The base fee for cell phone-wielding motorists is only $20, but after adding up the courthouse and processing fees, the final ticket can be around $160.

Jim Brown, spokesman for the California Bicycle Coalition, told the Ex the group supports the legislation:

“There is a ton of research that shows a high level of impairment for motorists when they talk on their cellphones. We have no reason to believe that it would be any different for cyclists.”

The California Bicycle Coalition did recommend that the fines be cheaper for bikers since there haven’t been many reports of cyclists injuring people while using their cellphones.

Although, not everyone thinks the bill will be helpful. State Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Oroville), who also opposed the original 2008 cellphone ban for motorists, said he would not support the latest bill either:

“This is just another example of regulatory creep. I mean, how do you cite a bicyclist if he doesn’t have a driver’s license? Officers have enough things to worry about.”