State Ban On Texting While Biking Proposed; Will Fire Juggling Be Next?

Soon-to-be outlaw?
San Francisco Police Lieutenant Lyn Tomioka's response when we called her to talk about a proposed statewide ban on the use of mobile phones while bicycling was revealing: an amused chuckle.

Ever circumspect in her public comments, department spokesperson Tomioka wouldn't comment extensively when asked whether the proposed ban would be enforceable in San Francisco, a city with hordes of bicyclists, a great love of personal mobile devices, and a police department struggling to stay on top of violent crime. "I think we just need to wait and see if it's passed," Tomioka said.

As first reported today in the San Francisco Chronicle, State Sen. Joe Simitian, a Palo Alto Democrat, has proposed extending to cyclists the ban on sending text messages or talking on cell phones while driving. The ban comes as part of legislation beefing up the existing car-related prohibition on using mobile devices, increasing the fines for those offenses to $100.

Tomioka told us she wasn't aware of an epidemic of phone-related bike crashes in San Francisco, though there's no telling for certain, since the police -- surprise -- don't keep statistics on cell-phone-provoked bicycle accidents.

In the meantime, we've got a call in to Simitian's office for the state senator's thoughts on how enforceable his bill would be for California Highway Patrol officers and local cops if passed.

UPDATE, 6:14 P.M.: Simitian called us back to chat about his proposed bike-text ban. The gist of his comments was that it should be clear that traffic laws -- stop signs, yellow lights, and bans on chatting on the phone or sending text messages -- apply equally to bikes and cars, and that bikes should have been mentioned explicitly in a 2006 state ban on talking on cell phones without a "hands-free" device while driving.

"Is it enforceable? Sure it is," Simitian said. "The rules of the road apply to both motor vehicles and bicyclists. It's really a drastic oversight from 2006 not to include bicyclists." However, he also noted that fines for bicyclists will be lower than for motorists -- $20 for a first-time offense and $50 thereafter.

Photo   |   Bob Doran

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