While safe-street advocates continue to celebrate the city’s new 25 mile per hour speed limit, Coney Island Councilmember Mark Treyger is looking to make streets “text-free” with a new bill that would see a citywide ban of cells – and other handheld devices – while cycling.
“We have made great progress in making our streets safer, but if we are truly serious about reaching the goal of eliminating all traffic deaths, we must recognize that everyone has a role in this effort,” said Treyger who was prompted to introduce the legislation after witnessing a cyclist swerve into oncoming traffic along Stillwell Avenue, nearly causing a serious multi-vehicle accident.
It was only then that he learned the city has no prohibition against handheld phone-use while cycling, or the specific data to prove those cyclists’s potential involvement in past vehicle collisions – something some local cyclists agreed was unacceptable.
“If you’re in any vehicle, you should not be using your cell phone. If laws are enforced for automobile drivers, they should be carried across the board,” contended Gelston Avenue resident and avid bicyclist Laura Breault. “Even if you’re riding at a leisurely pace, you can still hurt others and yourself. As a bike rider, I do use my phone for music, but I think it’s important to make sure you stop, pull off the road and out of traffic even to do something as simple as changing a song.”
Treyger’s proposal is less punitive than laws already passed in Chicago and Flagstaff, Arizona, as the bill would simply extend the current restrictions on phone use already in place for motorists also to cover cyclists. The use of voice-activated and hands-free devices would still be permitted and would not be impacted by this law.
“I agree that drivers have the biggest responsibility, but the city also has an obligation to promote safe cycling and to take steps to eliminate all forms of distracted driving and riding,” said Treyger from the steps of City Hall on Thursday, November 13 where he announced the proposed legislation, which also includes the creation of bike safety courses instead of fines (starting at $50 for first-time offenses) for certain cases. “The ultimate goal is to reduce all injuries and deaths, and this legislation will help make our streets safer for everyone.”
The local pol was joined by fellow Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez (chair of the Council’s transportation committee), Carlos Menchaca and Vincent Gentile as well as cycling advocacy groups like Bike New York.