N.J. Pol Rethinks Ban on Cell Phone Use While Cycling

Growing opposition forced a New Jersey state lawmaker to withdraw his idea to ban riding a bike while talking on a cell phone.

"The minute I started to talk about it in committee, I could feel my insides feeling unsure about this," said Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick. "When I called my wife at home about it, she said, 'Are you kidding?'"

The bill may not exist anymore, but Bramnick said it is giving him material for his stand-up comedian act.

"Normally, my common sense gut is pretty good," Bramnick said, adding, but "you make mistakes."

Bramnick introduced the measure in a package of safety bills to protect bicyclists and people along their cycling routes but withdrew it when he realized it wouldn't pass and received phone calls from concerned constituents.

The bill proposed making it illegal for people to use a hand-held telephone while riding a bicycle on a public road. Hands-free devices would be allowed and violators would face fines ranging from $100 to $250.

The bill sailed through committee, but "things that make it through committee are not necessarily good things," Bramnick said.

Bramnick decided to introduce the measure after talking to police officers to find ideas to improve pedestrian safety.

Another safety bill likely to move forward is Bramnick's measure that would require cars to stop when pedestrians are crossing the street. Current New Jersey law requires cars to yield.

In 2005, 784 people were killed — including 17 in New Jersey — and 45,000 were injured in bicycle crashes in the United States, accounting for 2 percent of traffic fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.