This reporter has referred to cyclists who use cell phones in motion as "solipsistic robot slaves to their own egos." But should the NYPD divert its resources to ticketing people on bikes who are talking or texting? Brooklyn Councilmember Mark Treyger thinks so.
Councilmember Treyger intends to introduce a package of legislation that would make using a cell phone without a hands-free device while biking a $50 fine, rising up to $200 for multiple infractions.
Treyger says the idea for the legislation came to him after he saw a cyclist texting on Stillwell Avenue near his district office in Gravesend. "He actually veered into incoming traffic, almost causing a multi-car crash," Treyger says. "Someone had to stop short and someone behind them almost hit them, and that prompted me to research this issue. I was surprised to learn there is no law in New York City that bans the practice."
The councilmember says his law would be "less punitive than anything that's out there in the country right now." Offenders would be able to avoid a fine by taking a new bicycle safety course.
According to a recent study of hospital records, cyclists injured 7,904 pedestrians in New York between 2004 and 2011; 92% of those pedestrians were treated as outpatients. Streetsblog notes that roughly 22,000 pedestrians and cyclists were killed statewide in 2012 alone.
In 2014, 118 pedestrians and 18 cyclists have been killed by motor vehicles in New York City. Three pedestrians have been killed by cyclists since 2009; two of those incidents occurred this year.
Asked to provide evidence that cycling and cell phone use is an issue worthy of new legislation, Treyger replied, "People have been distributing photographs on the internet of examples of people texting and biking. So there are cases of this, it just probably goes unreported or it doesn’t reach the NYPD data table, but we’re shedding light on this issue."
Last week we reported that police had ticketed scores of cyclists in Midtown for riding on the right side of Fifth Avenue, an activity that happens to be entirely legal. Is Treyger happy with how the NYPD currently enforces traffic laws?
"We never welcome petty doctrine type of enforcement, even with drivers," the councilmember told us. "The fact of the matter is, Vision Zero is a very serious, life-saving goal, and we all have a role to play. It’s not just motorists. If we’re just going to say that only motor vehicles cause accidents and deaths, then I just don’t think that’s true Vision Zero. I remind the public that the goal is Vision Zero, not Vision Few or Vision Some."
Treyger, who has never biked while on the phone and could not remember the last time he rode a bike, realizes that "more and more New Yorkers are choosing bikes, which I think is a good thing. But we have a responsibility, in my opinion, to make sure we are promoting safe and responsible bicycling."
He does not, however, support a law forcing cyclists to use helmets. "In my opinion, people should wear them because that’s safe and responsible bicycling, but the difference that I would note is that texting and biking, you’re not just hurting yourself, you’re hurting others as well."