Cyclists on Cell Phones?!

Cyclists on Cell Phones?!

Schneider, Bill
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In today's society, it's hard not to be frustrated about a lot of things. Nonetheless, each week, regardless of the morning's news, I tell myself not to rant. But today, I can't stop myself, so I apologize in advance. This will be a little ranty, but if any subject deserves it, this is it.

Earlier today, I'm walking down the sidewalk on my daily trip to the post office, and I'm almost run down by a young woman riding a bicycle, one hand on the handlebars, one hand pressing a cell phone on her ear. On top of all that, she was riding with no helmet and way too fast down a busy downtown sidewalk where people can pop unexpectedly out of businesses and cause a major crash.

And this is the third time I have observed this most dangerous and thoughtless behavior in the last two months, all within a block of my downtown office.

Don't you agree this warrants a rant?

We've all seen motorists driving around carelessly while using cell phones. This is bad enough, but cyclists?

I ride my bicycle around town almost every day. And anybody who does this quickly learns how vital it is to be on Red Alert at all times, even more than motorists who can at least brake or make adjustments with one hand on the wheel. The opposite of Red Alertness would be riding on a downtown sidewalk without a helmet using a cell phone.

We need to stop this before it spreads.

Yes, I'm concerned about this young woman and others bicycling while using cell phones getting run down by a motorist or running down a pedestrian, but that's only one reason for this rant.

As anybody who regularly rides a bike knows, cyclists have an image problem with some motorists. Sometimes this bad attitude is merely unfounded frontier culture, but sometimes it's a well-deserved, self-inflicted wound caused by dangerous, inconsiderate riding or not following traffic rules.

Riding around talking on a cell phone would be the ultimate example of how to create negative sentiment among motorists for all cyclists, including those who don't deserve it.

Even worse, this incredibly careless, inappropriate behavior is perfectly legal—unlike a cyclist running a red light, which is illegal but probably less hazardous.

When riding a bicycle you need both hands on the handlebars and you need to be ready to brake or react to traffic or road hazards at all times, every second. It's impossible to stop or make a quick maneuver with one hand on the handlebars while gabbing on a cell phone.

Several states have passed or tried to pass laws banning driving while talking on the cell phones, because studies show this behavior is another unnecessary distraction that causes accidents at about the same rate as driving drunk. But cyclists? That's even worse.

I've decided that next time I see somebody riding a bicycle and talking on a cell phone, I'm going to stop the person and tell him or her to knock it off. Join me in this endeavor. We need to stop this before it spreads.

Bill Schneider writes a weekly column called "Wild Bill" for newwest.net, an online magazine, where this commentary was originally published.
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