Cyclists: Text-messaging-while-biking ban has g2g

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A southern Brooklyn pol’s bid to ban text-messaging while biking is a misguided attempt to score political points in the car-centric district and fundamentally misunderstands the dangers cyclists face, according to bike advocates.

The car critics blasted Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Bensonhurst) for his bill that would make it a crime to tap the coordinates to tonight’s party while piloting a bicycle. The activists argue that the legislation is a diversion from the need for police enforcement targeting motorists, who are responsible for the vast majority of road deaths, and for car-slowing measures by the Department of Transportation.

“Legislating over texting while biking is a dangerous distraction from what is actually killing people,” said Keegan Stephan, a former Williamsburg resident and activist with the group Right Of Way. “This is not just a net zero. It is a net negative because it calls for NYPD and DOT resources that could be used elsewhere.”

Treyger said he was inspired to write up the legislation when he saw a distracted cyclist swerve into traffic while text-messaging. The bill, introduced on Nov. 13, would make text-messaging while biking a violation, punishable by a $50 fine on the first offense if it results in an injury or property damage, and as much as $200 for subsequent offenses. The law would also mandate that the transportation and police departments come up with a bike-safety education program for offenders to attend.

The legislation has the backing of 13 other Council members, including Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) who bikes to work at City Hall and to community meetings around his district, as the New York Daily News reported.

Treyger said his law is in line with Mayor DeBlasio’s Vision Zero campaign to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2024, though he acknowledged that drivers deserve more scrutiny to that end. But bike activists scoffed at the idea that the looming legislation would do anything to help road safety, and said that Treyger should be driven by data, not incidents from his commute.

“I have never had someone come to me and say they injured or struck someone because they were texting while biking,” said Steve Vaccaro, a lawyer who specializes in representing cyclists. “If an anecdote was our standard for calling for new legislation we would have countless laws for situations that just don’t come up.”

Stephan also criticized Treyger for focusing on cyclist behavior when he could be adding bike-insulating infrastructure to his automobile-oriented turf below Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s proverbial Mason-Dixon line.

“If we created more bike lanes instead of diverting resources to teaching bicyclists how to ride safely, we would solve everyone’s problems,” he said. “Treyger doesn’t have a single bike lane in his district. Maybe he should focus on that instead.”

In fact, Treyger’s district includes a single, solitary bike lane, along Neptune Avenue in Coney Island, and notably, the bike path along Ocean Parkway, which is the oldest in the nation. But the two-wheeler accommodations are a far cry from the many miles of bike lanes that crisscross neighborhoods from Red Hook to Greenpoint, roughly coinciding with this newspaper’s coverage area.

Treyger’s legislation is an attempt to close a loophole in a state law that outlaws text-messaging while driving but explicitly applies only to people operating a moving vehicle, leaving bicyclists free to tap away. The motorist-only clause has not stopped police from slapping cyclists with apparently bogus tickets for using their phones on the go. As of Nov. 9, cops had cited cyclists 423 times citywide for using a cellphone while riding, almost twice as many tickets as the 213 written in 2013. The data provided by the Police Department does not specify which law cyclists were cited under, and a police rep declined to specify, but Treyger said the tickets likely lie on shaky legal ground.

“I’d love for the NYPD to point to what law they are using to write those tickets,” Treyger said. “If a police officer is taking actions or enforcing laws that don’t exist, it is certainly troubling.”

Stephan and Vaccaro both acknowledged that text-messaging while biking is dangerous, and Vaccaro praised the creation of a city-backed bike safety program. But both said that if the city is going to crack down on cyclists, other behaviors are more alarming, such as biking while under the influence.

“The procedural aspects are good, but the fundamental thrust of the law is flawed,” Vaccaro said. “It would be best to apply it elsewhere.”

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Michael from Shore Road says:
Can someone explain to me why we don't have bicyclists being ticketed for running red lights and riding against traffic? Or adult cyclists riding on the sidewalk?
Nov. 17, 2014, 4:18 pm
Jay from nyc says:
totally disagree with this guy bikes have to follow the same rules as cars that is the law. Its not legal to text and drive and so it should not be legal to text and bike. And I am almost got hide by a biker (who was of course on the sidewalk) who was text-ing, whic lead me to ponder how many laws does a bicycles have to break and put my safety injeapordy before I am allowed to pummel the fool in self defense.
I think Keegan stepan needs to understand that the law is the law and stop trying to excuse one segment of society from following it and thinking that they are somehow special.
The are two real issue here, first, is that the police need to enforce traffic laws, and judging by the way the police violate parking laws and other traffic laws it seems they do not want to do the job, and maybe we need to investigate why that is.
The second issue that we need to examine is why to so many people think that the law applies to everyone but them and that they are somehow special and exempt.
Nov. 17, 2014, 5:55 pm
Captain Block from 68th Precinct says:
Hi Michael: How many times have you and other car, truck, van drivers run the red light at 86th St & Shore Road? How many times have you blown the stop sign at 68th & Shore Road? How about the red light at 3rd Ave & Shore Road?

We'll talk about your double parking next round.

Thanks in advance.
Nov. 17, 2014, 6:41 pm
ty from pps says:
You got to love all of the folks that pipe up with "I was almost hit by a bicycle" -- meanwhile there is someone DEAD every two days because of a car. Is properly directing the limited resources of law enforcement really that difficult to understand?!

Is biking and texting a smart things to do? Is there some risk? Yes. But are the 2-ton boxes of steel and glass bombing around the streets the *actual* and *real* threat to life and limb... evidenced by actual and real injury and death? Thousands of severe pedestrian injuries every year and almost 200 pedestrian deaths -- by drivers.

THAT should be the focus of limited law enforcement resources. Not tough to understand, regardless of your whiny hatred of people on bicycles. I'm assuming you're the same people that honk at me or dangerously pass me at high speed on a crowded street because I'm not driving my car fast enough (i.e., 25 mph instead of 50).
Nov. 17, 2014, 10:13 pm
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
I might align myself slightly with taliban tal the anti-bike jihadi, but its crazy to ride your bike and text.
Nov. 18, 2014, 8:36 am
Resident from Brooklyn says:
I'm embarrassed for councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who is also a sponosor of this bill. What is this guy thinking? People are dying every day from reckless motorists and he has time for this garbage?
Nov. 18, 2014, 9:22 am
raj says:
Laws equal for both cars and bicycles makes sense. End of story.
Nov. 18, 2014, 9:22 am
M to the I from Park Slope says:
Awesome, everyone thinks that cars and cyclists should have equal laws. Then don't honk your horn at cyclists when they ride in any lane of traffic they choose. Slow down and give a polite wave hello when you pass a cyclist on the FDR, Grand Central, Belt or Bronx River Parkways. Bicyclists should also get tickets for not wearing their seat belts!!
Nov. 18, 2014, 9:36 am
SP from Brooklyn says:
Carlos Menchaca is involved with the idiocy? That's very disappointing. We have bigger problems on the roads, like drivers killing kids and getting off without even a ticket.
Nov. 18, 2014, 9:49 am
judahspechal from bedstuy says:
not a goosd experience getting hit by a moving object, bikes or autos.
Nov. 18, 2014, 9:54 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
I suspect Carlos Menchaca's co-sponsorship of this silly bill is a case of falling for false equivalence more than a deeply felt concern. The bill is silly because texting while biking is vanishingly rare. With the potholes, cracks, and vagaries of road surfaces in the city, drivers who cut you off, other drivers who want to door you, yet other drivers who think the bike lane is a double-parking/delivery zone, and pedestrians who dart into the bike lane without looking, riding without hands or even one-handed while trying to text is very difficult to do to begin with. Blowing up the one time a couple years ago that you saw a delivery guy on a bike consulting his phone GPS into a CRISIS. THAT. MUST. BE. DEALT. WITH!!! defies credulity. It's a sop to car-owning haters in Bay Ridge. That's all. Luckily for the rest of us, the tide is trending our way, so the best thing for Treyger and his dopier constituents to do is to move to the Jersey Shore where they can sport their muscle T's and I-Roc Z's in peace.
Nov. 18, 2014, 10:04 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Why is Scott so bitter and the fascination muscle t's?

The excuse that someone else is not following the law is no excuse to not follow the law. I saw an idiot in a bike plow into a car the other day that was stopped at a stop sign. Darwin award in the making
Nov. 18, 2014, 11:23 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Why is Scott so bitter and the fascination muscle t's?

The excuse that someone else is not following the law is no excuse to not follow the law. I saw an idiot in a bike plow into a car the other day that was stopped at a stop sign. Darwin award in the making
Nov. 18, 2014, 11:23 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Why is Scott so bitter and the fascination muscle t's?

The excuse that someone else is not following the law is no excuse to not follow the law. I saw an idiot in a bike plow into a car the other day that was stopped at a stop sign. Darwin award in the making
Nov. 18, 2014, 11:23 am
ty from pps says:
And, Old Time... who was hurt in that episode you witnessed the other day. hmm? Did it result in one of the dead pedestrians this city suffers, on average, every other day? Or the literally dozens of pedestrian injuries per day? Hmm?

There is no "excuse." This is a reason to direct limited resources at the ACTUAL problems. Cyclists texting is not one of them. Cycling on sidewalks? Guess what has shown to decrease this behavior to almost non-existent... surprise! Proper infrastructure! If we could just stop the CARS from driving into pedestrians on the sidewalk, hmm? (Ya know, without hearing "No criminality suspected." and not even a ticket after crushing pedestrians... and better, blaming the pedestrian!)
Nov. 18, 2014, 11:51 am
Steve from NOSHISI Staten Island says:
Texting while any actual movement is a no brainer. Dont do it!! I ride everyday on bike to work in NYC. Problem is most auto drivers do not or never actually biked since grade school. Yes you must follow rules when riding but all must remember, bike riding requires no license, no insurance, no registration. Car is 4000 lbs verse bike at 20lbs. Car drives at 30-75 mph bike barely exceeds 15 mph. Go figure
Nov. 18, 2014, 12:30 pm
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
A politician's main job is to create laws. If you don't like the job he's doing either call his office or let it reflect during the next election. Now biking and texting, I haven't seen a cyclist doing that yet but I’d give them props for multitasking and if they got hit while doing so, then just scrape them off the road and keep it moving. I have however seen cyclists talking on their phones without a hands-free device while riding, which should be illegal. As far as road danger and phones go its drivers talking w/o hands-free and/or texting, cyclists talking w/o hands-free and pedestrians crossing and not paying attention while they text/talk.
Nov. 18, 2014, 12:40 pm
Guest from NYC says:
It's not smart (or even common) to text and bike. The problem is that this law is a distraction from the real issue: safety on our streets because of culturally acceptable reckless driving.

How about some legislation that will make a difference?
Nov. 18, 2014, 12:53 pm
adrastos from bath beach says:
I want to know what makes anyone with half a brain think it is OK to text and ride a bike, or drive a car. is this what the world hs come to, that texting is the most important thing in the world to do.
people need to wake up already. We need stricter laws regarding this texting issue. It amazes me how stupid most people really are.
Nov. 18, 2014, 12:54 pm
Tyson White from UWS says:
The morning this came out in the news, I witnessed a driver on his cellphone making a left turn while cutting around another car that was making a left turn, but failing to yield to a pedestrian for whom the other car was waiting (3 dangerous driving behaviors in one). I hope Mr Treyger notices such things because they happen much too often.

What does he suggest we do about it? Would he support more enforcement? A tiny portion of drivers are actually penalized for speeding, texting , and failure to yield. Would he support cameras that detect failure to yield (like they have in DC)? How about the expansion of speed cameras? 140 cams for 6,000 miles of road is a joke.

Oh, and btw, it already is illegal to use a phone while biking as the laws for cycling are the same as for driving unless otherwise stated. So instead of wasting public resources on new laws to target cyclists, why not focus his energy on enforcing existing laws that matter and make the roads safer for the over 14,000 pedestrians who are hit by cars in NYC each year?!
Nov. 18, 2014, 9:46 pm
Vinny Polack from Greenpoint says:
The real question is: why are bicycles not required to be registered with license plates?
Nov. 18, 2014, 11:30 pm
ty from pps says:
Is that the real question, Vinny? Really... ?! Ugggh.
Nov. 18, 2014, 11:42 pm
multi-modal guy says:
Standard bike culture illogic: Because cars can cause so much worse damage that cyclists, there should be no common-sense rules for the latter.
Nov. 19, 2014, 8:32 am
ty from pps says:
No... Multi-modal. The 'common sense' is that because cars can (and DO) cause so much worse damage (and DEATH) limited police resources should be directed toward that problem. Once a big dent has been made in the issue of 40 pedestrians being injured by drivers ever day and a pedestrian being killed by drivers every other day... then we can worry about little issues like cyclists doing those things that annoy you (but don't actually kill or injure you).
Nov. 19, 2014, 9:09 am
Michael from Shore Road says:
Hey Cap't Block-NEVER. I actually obey the rules, unlike the bulk of the cyclists I see while I'm out both walking and driving.

Incidentally, Cap't Block-since you say you're from the 68-can you tell me how many police officers are allowed to text while driving? I've seen that, too. But you know, go on with your snarky self.
Nov. 19, 2014, 11:12 am
Jane from Bay Ridge says:
To Ty from PPS-
Perhaps you can explain the injuries both me and my sister received (in two separate incidents) where cyclists ran red lights? My sister ended up with a concussion and a brain bleed, and the cyclist attempted to assault her for "making him late". I ended up with a concussion and a broken finger. Both of us had to pay our medical bills out of our own pockets. Both cyclists took off before law enforcement and medical care arrived.

So cyclists SHOULDN'T be ticketed for breaking the law because they don't cause damages or are just annoying, do I have that right?
Nov. 19, 2014, 11:52 am
Vinny Polack from Greenpoint says:
To Ty from PPS: Is that onomatopoeia your full reply, or did your computer break while posting? To answer your question, as a bicyclist myself, yes! Many bike-culture-heavy European countries have mandatory bicycle plates and low-cost licensing for operating a bicycle on public roads. Until a bike can be identified by the plate from a distance, there will be few if any consequences for breaking the law! No lights, no reflectors, no bells, no regard for lights, sometimes even no brakes on fixed-gears! Until a bicyclist has a license to lose, the loss of which revokes their bicycle privilege, reckless bicyclist behavior will not stop!
Nov. 19, 2014, 3:27 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Personally, I find it dangerous to be text messaging while moving with anything. Doing so causes makes the person distracted while ignoring just about everything around them. In other words, it's like they will be placing themselves into harm's way. Text messages can always wait, and just because I didn't answer already doesn't mean that I don't plan answering at all. Overall, I'm all for saying that it's wrong for cyclists to ride and text. Of course the bike zealots will always cry to foul to this as they on just about every other law that is passed on them. As for that statement on saying that motorists do worse on cyclists in claiming that they are more dangerous and kill more reminds me a lot of those trying to say that the Israel Defense Force is much more dangerous and more of a terrorist organization than Hamas is just because they kill more, and that is what the anti-Israel crowd and Hamas sympathizers do to justify such attacks. I do feel that cyclists should follow the rules, but they will always try to act like victims to them, which I tend to find a double standard considering that they demand that motorists must follow every letter of the law and have strict enforcement almost 24-7 when they don't have to worry about that. The only reason they will never agree to having their bicycles licensed, registered, and registered is mainly because they will get tracked, caught, and held accountable for what they are doing when they used to get away with it, not because of the costs.
Nov. 19, 2014, 4:35 pm
ty from pps says:
Jane -- That sucks you and your sister were part of a tiny tiny tiny tiny percentage of roadway injuries. Your unfortunate experience (and running red lights and hitting pedestrians is obviously unacceptable) is not a reason to direct law enforcement is foolish ways. You are MUCH MUCH MUCH more likely to be killed by a car -- remember 1 pedestrian death every other day -- than any injuries related to a cyclist. THIS IS WHERE THE RESOURCES SHOULD BE DIRECTED.

Do you get it, Jane? The issue here isn't enforcing laws that cyclist break... it's (a) creating silly and unnecessary *new* laws and (b) spending specious resources on low risk roadway users when resources should be focused on the biggest threat.

So, Jane, you think police should be spending their time targeting cyclists while 40 pedestrians being injured by drivers ever day and a pedestrian being killed by drivers every other day??

Get it, Jane?
Nov. 19, 2014, 7:09 pm
ty from pps says:
You know that pedestrians knock over other pedestrians too? (causing concussions and other injuries) Should the police be working on this horror? Or should they try to reduce drivers from killing and maiming pedestrians?
Nov. 19, 2014, 7:11 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, just because cyclists don't kill or injure that much as motorists doesn't mean that they should be allowed to get away with the rules. I feel that all groups should be following the laws to help make safe streets, not just one only while the rest can get away with it. However, the difference with bicycles is that they can come at you with little or no warning just because they are constantly disobeying so many traffic lights and signs. I'm not surprised to hear the bike zealots crying foul to Mark Treyger for wanting the no text messaging rule to extend to cyclists let alone Keegan Stephan, which only proves my point. Instead of acting like victims to the rules, explain why these rules shouldn't apply to cyclists, and I want to hear reasons and NOT excuses. Also, please don't act defensive or hostile or you will just prove my point that you bike zealots just don't like following any rules that you don't like.
Nov. 19, 2014, 9:34 pm
ty from pps says:
You seem to be TRYING to miss the point... as always! Do you see me "making excuses" at all?! Please, oh wise one, please tell me police should be spending their time targeting cyclists while 40 pedestrians being injured by drivers ever day and a pedestrian being killed by drivers every other day??

It's called proper use of limited resources!!!

But, go ahead. Make another comment that is full of non sequiturs.
Nov. 19, 2014, 11:15 pm
ty from pps says:
This isn't a hard concept.... In a small town, the fire department will help people get a cat out of a tree. The FDNY won't do this. It's not a good use of limited resources. Get it?

Did you see how the cycling advocates are very positive about education campaigns? That's the way to tackle this sort of issue. Not diverting police resources. Should I repeat this same thing another way for a tenth time? Or is that enough?
Nov. 19, 2014, 11:22 pm
Mike from Sunset Park says:
So Ty-if you've got cops set up to catch drivers breaking the law in an area, and they see cyclists breaking the law, they should just let them go? Not stop and ticket them, the same way they'd do to the cars?

It seems that education ISN'T enough. They keep doing the same things over and over and over and over. How it is that there are people, posting here, seeing these things daily, and you don't? Or do you turn a blind eye since you're a cyclist?

And as for Jane and her friend getting injured by cyclists-how many people do you think have been injured and NOT reported it to police? Seriously, Ty-how many do you think go unreported?

Ty-when the hell have you heard of pedestrians knocking over other pedestrians in "accidents"? Come on, guy-you're reaching. Cyclists, just like motor vehicle operators, have to be held responsible. There are laws governing cyclists just as there are for motor vehicles. There's a reason for that.
Nov. 20, 2014, 1:30 am
ty from pps says:
Mike -- You seem to be, like Tal, willfully trying to miss the point.

"How it is that there are people, posting here, seeing these things daily, and you don't?"

Oh, I see infractions regularly. By all roadway users... it seems that these same people whining on here tend to ignore the insane behavior of drivers... but who is actually KILLING someone every other day and injuring 40 pedestrians every day??? I'll give you a choice --

Delivery guy bike the wrong way down my small residential street.

Driver accelerating his 2-ton vehicle to 45 mph on the same street, then slowing down slightly, maybe to 15 mph for the stop sign, then getting back up to 45 mph for before the stop light.

Which of these has great potential for harm? Which of these has a good chance of killing one of my neighbors?

Mike, should the police be ticketing pedestrians on my small street for jaywalking too?
Nov. 20, 2014, 3:34 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, it's you who is missing the point here. The three infractions you mention are all illegal regardless of what the outcomes are. Just because the others don't cause a major death doesn't make them anything less. For the record, I don't justify the actions of reckless drivers, but when it comes to rogue cyclists, you seem to turn a blind eye to them. Also, the way you want enforcement is very similar to how George Orwell wrote Animal Farms where only a special group of animals were exempt from the law while the rest had follow every letter of it. One other thing, I don't have anything against those that like to ride bicycles, I just want them to follow the rules. Is that really too much to ask for? Another thing is that I find it an irony when you call for motorists to follow all the rules when your group of cyclists hardly ever does that hence the double standard. The one difference between us motorists and you cyclists is that we motorists do admit our problems and we don't try to pretend to have a halo over our heads to play the innocent, which is probably what you cyclists do all the time to stick up for each other no matter what you do.
Nov. 20, 2014, 5:09 pm
Vinny Polack from Greenpoint says:
ty's argument in a nutshell: Bike infractions are illegal but are not worth enforcing.
Nov. 20, 2014, 7:59 pm
ty from pps says:
Yes... that's not a bad summary Vinny. "There are bigger fish to fry."

And Tal -- "we motorists do admit our problems and we don't try to pretend to have a halo over our heads"


Show me the EVIDENCE of that on the friggin' street, Tal! 15 dead and 1000 injured pedestrians every month. Hmm...
Nov. 20, 2014, 8:31 pm
old time brookly from slope says:
ty is basically doing a kkk thing
ty's argument in a nutshell: Bike infractions are illegal but are not worth enforcing.
Nov. 20, 2014, 8:36 pm
ty from pps says:
Old Time -- You just repeated Vinny... and if you noticed, yes, I agreed with him. I'm not sure how "there are bigger fish to fry" (with limited policing resources) is a "kkk thing." And, btw, this isn't "my" argument. This is the rational argument.
Nov. 21, 2014, 11:15 am
Tyson White from UWS says:
A great waste of public resources when more meaningful legislation is needed (e.g. 3-ft passing rule).

Technically, the law already prohibits cyclists from texting, since the laws for bicycles clearly states that bicyclists are subject to the same traffic laws as motorists. This obviates the need for any further legislation. And apparently, Treyger hasn't noticed the tens of thousands of texting drivers to bother to write legislation increasing penalties to texting motorists. Why? Because it's more commonplace to see motorists texting (this may have something to do with balance - it's physically much more difficult to text while bicycling than while driving).
Dec. 8, 2014, 1:42 pm

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