CHICAGO
09/14/2011 05:39 pm ET Updated Nov 14, 2011

Cyclist Cell Phone Ban Mulled By Chicago City Council

If Chicago cyclists want the same privilege as motorists, the City Council says they'll have to abide by the same rules: and that includes not using their cell phones while riding.

The cell phone ban was proposed by the Council's Committee on Pedestrian Traffic Safety chair, Ald. Marge Laurino (39th), who called it a "common-sense" ordinance, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

“It really is about distracted drivers — no matter what you’re driving. I’m looking to make the streets safer for everyone: motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians,” Laurino said.

The ordinance would extend the same bans against texting and hand-held cell phone calls that drivers face to cyclists. Laurino says this distinction is necessary to protect pedestrians and level the playing field between motorists and bike riders, according to the Sun-Times.

If the ordinance passes, violators would face a $50 fine, increased to $500 if the violation happens during a traffic accident, NBC Chicago reports.

Chicago law currently forbids drivers from using a cell phone without a hands-free device unless they are parked, calling 911 or are law enforcement officers and emergency vehicle operators "acting in their official capacities."

The Active Transportation Alliance, which promotes biking, walking and mass transit use, has expressed support for the ordinance, but concern over its enforceability. Cell phone restrictions for drivers are notoriously difficult to enforce--and the alliance's executive director Rob Burke says extending the law to cyclists, who are easier to spot than drivers, could further shift police focus from motorist offenders, the Sun-Times reports.

“When it comes to choosing their enforcement priorities, we’d like to see [police] focus on protecting bicyclists and pedestrians who are the most vulnerable users of the road,” Burke told the Sun-Times.

The inclusion of cyclists in motorist policies mirrors Mayor Rahm Emanuel's goals to elevate bicycling to a more mainstream form of transit in the city. The installation of a protected bike lane along a half-mile stretch of Kinzie Street in July marks the first of 25 Emanuel has planned with the Department of Transportation, adding to the existing 125 miles of painted lanes throughout Chicago.

Flickr photo by pasa47.