CHICAGO
10/05/2011 05:08 pm ET | Updated Dec 05, 2011

Texting While Biking Banned By Chicago City Council

The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance barring bicyclists from using their cell phones to text message or talk on the phone without a hands-free device.

The ordinance, sponsored by Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th), the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety chairman, fines violators $20 on their first offense, and up to $100 for three or more violations. The fine is increased to a $500 maximum should they violate the ordinance during a traffic collision, according to the Chicago Tribune. Fines for motorists violating the existing cell phone ban are comparatively higher, starting at $75.

The ban, which Laurino described as "common sense" in leveling the playing field between bicyclists and motorists, will go into effect in November, NBC Chicago reports. It was approved by the council without dissent.

The ban was somewhat weakened compared to its original proposal last month. Originally, violators were to face a $50 fine on a first offense.

The Active Transportation Alliance, a group which promotes biking, walking and mass transit use, supported the ordinance but was concerned that bicyclists, because they are more visible than motorists, would be more often targeted than phone-using motorists.

Photo by pasa47 via Flickr.