NY proposes ban on biking while phoning, texting

NEW YORK - Texting or talking on a cellphone while riding a bike would be banned under a law proposed Thursday in New York City, where two pedestrians have died in recent years after being struck by cyclists.

It is not uncommon for bike riders in the Big Apple to steer with one hand - or even with none - while snapping cell phone pictures or checking their email on a tablet.

But this impressive feat of balance and dexterity poses a danger in densely-populated New York, where hundreds are injured each year in bike-related accidents, city officials said.

"If you are biking and texting at the same time, you are not paying attention to where you are going and you pose a danger to yourself and others around you," said Mark Treygar, the council member who proposed the bill, speaking at a press conference at New York's City Hall.

The Democrat said he felt compelled to introduce the measure after witnessing a near collision close to his Brooklyn office in which the main culprit was a cyclist sending a text message.

Mayor Bill de Blasio voiced his support for the measure, which is similar to a law approved three years ago in Chicago.

"Someone who's biking needs to be alert, needs to think of safety first," de Blasio told reporters.

"They can't do that if they're simultaneously looking at a device." Failure to comply with the measure would carry a $50 fine for a first offence, so long as there has not been an accident. The fine would be higher for repeat offenders.

Cyclists who break the law would also be required to take a bicycle safety class - a similar punishment given to some drivers who violate traffic laws.

Cycling is growing in popularity across the United States, as officials make America's cities more bike-friendly with dedicated traffic lanes and municipally-subsidized corner bike rentals.

The Journal of Safety Research recently said that between 2004 and 2011, some 8,000 pedestrians were injured in accidents involving cyclists.

The journal wrote that two pedestrians were killed during that time in collisions with bike-riders.