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City Council Panel Moves to Extend Texting Ban to Bicyclists

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 4, 2011 1:00PM

The move to extend the city's ban on talking on a cell phone and texting while driving to bicyclists took another step toward becoming law yesterday when the City Council’s Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety approved the ordinance proposed by committee chairman, 39th Ward Ald. Marge Laurino.

The ordinance as passed yesterday is a watered-down version of the legislation proposed by Laurino and carries a staggered fining scale starting as low as $20 for a first offense and up to $500 if a bicyclist is involved in an accident.

Laurino said the ordinance is as much about fairness as it is safety and said it's about time bicyclists were held to the same rules of the road as motorists. “We are just trying to level the playing field,” Laurino said.

Thee $64,000 question here is will the ordinance, if passed by City Council, be enforced?

Matthew Tobias, the Chicago Police Department’s deputy chief of Area 3 patrol, told the Sun-Times he doesn't expect to make a move out of the gate to enforce the ordinance if passed.

“What we’re gonna do is try education as our primary means. We have bicycle ambassadors. We have bicycle patrol units. All those things will help.”

And if they don't work?

“We’ll stop him like we would stop anybody else in a safe manner. We have bicycle patrol officers also. We would just do it the best we can while keeping everybody safe,” Tobias said.