CHP announces new fines for cyclists

The California Highway Patrol has announced plans to introduce penalties for cyclists who use a cellphone while riding. The fine – $20 (before additional fees) is for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders would face fines of $50 for each incident.

The new penalties were outlined in a bill that was approved by the state Senate on Monday, April 25th. The bill also increases penalties for drivers who use a cellphone while driving. They could face fines of more than $500 for repeat offenses, once fees have been tacked on to the basic fine. The bill was introduced during April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

As cellphones become ubiquitous, it is not unusual to see cyclists pausing to retrieve a ringing phone from a pocket while they cruise along city streets. Motorists have been doing the same for many years, often with tragic results.

But the bill has its opponents among cycling advocates, who maintain that cyclists need greater protection, not more restrictions, when riding on the road.

“This is only going to be one more obstacle for someone who uses their bicycle for transportation.” Said Tani Walling, a bike shop owner from southern California. “Everything about how our streets and sidewalks are set up favors cars.”

Every year, law enforcement hands out tens of thousands of citations in California for drivers using cellphones to talk or text while driving. Over 18s are required to use hands-free devices, while under-18s are prohibited from using any kind of phone while driving a car.

  1. #1 by Michael on April 26, 2011 - 2:55 pm

    We were stuck in traffic yesterday and I was appalled at the number of people texting and driving. The talking on the phone thing moderately annoys me but I can usually understand how someone might forget that they have to use a handsfree device. The texting is a different story. I was turned facing the passenger window so I could reach back and try to comfort the crying baby behind me and watched as car after car went by with the driver texting or tweeting or something. At first I thought, “well, we’re almost stopped and they’re probably just telling someone they’re running late – this was on I80 – but then we’d leapfrog the same car a few times and the driver would be texting everytime.

    Also, I’m not sure I buy this whole “cyclists need greater protection, not more restrictions, when riding on the road” arguement. We need greater protection, but that doesn’t mean restrictions like this aren’t valid. This isn’t something that should be a barrier to cyclists. Very few new or aspiring cyclists are going to be turned off by the fact that, as they get used to navigating traffic, they can’t also be texting their friends or chatting on the phone. And let’s face it, sometimes cyclists need to be protected from other cyclists.

  2. #2 by Sam on April 26, 2011 - 5:04 pm

    No argument there – I thought it was a bit of stretch to call crackdowns on texting while cycling ( how do you even do that? ) an attack on cyclists’ rights. Frankly, I don’t understand what people can possibly be texting about all the time:

    “LMAO I just accelerated to 33mph”
    “WTF? Isn’t that a 30mph zone”
    “Yah, but I’m about to execute a right turn at speed”

    etc. ad infinitum.

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