Cyclists on cellphones may soon pay the price if Senate bill is passed

Cyclists on cellphones may soon have to pay a fine for their multitasking ways.

A bill going through state Senate hearings would fine bicyclists a flat fee of $20 for first time cellphone use offenders, and $50 for each time caught after.

“It’s clear rolling through a stop sign or riding the wrong way is a violation for a bike as well as a driver. What this is proposing is consistent with the way other traffic laws are written,” said Jim Brown, spokesman for the California Bicycle Coalition. “There’s a huge body of evidence that cognitive impairment is quite significant while talking on a cellphone. There’s no reason to think that bicyclists are less distracted.”

Brown, who worked with the bill’s author Senator Joe Simitian, said they aimed to craft a low fine for bicyclists because, although they are prone to distraction whilst on a mobile phone, they pose a smaller danger than drivers using cellphones.

“There was no evidence that bicyclists using cellphones were causing major collisions or injuries other than perhaps to themselves,” Brown said.

International student and economics junior Gero Muller thought the possible punishment would set a measure of fairness for everyone on the road.

“I think it’s justified because when driving a car I’m not allowed to use my cellphone as well. I think in the car you would have to pay a lot more,” Muller said. “It’s dangerous for you and for others. You can destroy other cars or destroy yourself.”

SF State art major Shannon Siggnis, who rides her bike to class, thought the bill increased safety while not changing her lifestyle.

“I hardly use my cellphone when I bike anyway because it’s pretty dangerous,” Siggnis said. “It’s kind of inconvenient, but it’s basically the same as if you’re driving.”

Although the bill adds fines for distracted cyclists, Brown added that the main point of the bill is to heighten the punishment for drivers using cellphones, such as adding driving points for teen drivers that violate the call or text-while-driving law.

“Bicyclists and pedestrians are uniquely vulnerable. If it gets passed, I hope to see less drivers using phones,” Brown said.

If it passes through the state senate, SB 28 is slated to be introduced to Gov. Jerry Brown later this year.