If approved, a bill currently being discussed in the Buenos Aires City Legislature would allow the authorities to fine cyclists who are seen wearing headphones or using their cell phones while biking on the street, following already existing legislation that until now applied to drivers who were caught breaking the law.
The Transit and Transportation Committee of the Buenos Aires Legislature recently cleared for debate a bill introduced by Suma+’s legislator Ines Gorbea that calls for a ban on using a cell phone or headphones while operating a bike on public roads. The bill seeks to encourage cyclists to reserve the use of cell phones and gadgets only when they are fully stopped. The committee details circumstances of appropriate usage for this technology for drivers, such as pulling over to the side of the road or after reaching a predetermined destination.
Even though the law already in place technically considers cyclists as “primary participants” within vehicular traffic, until now there are certain rules that have not been applied to cyclists as opposed to others operating on the streets beside them. So, although the growing popularity using bicycles as a means of daily transportation has waged positive environmental effects, the lack of regulations have caused certain ramifications, such as chaotic advancements in the streets and local avenues.
To balance out the playing field, this new bill spearheaded by Gorbea proposes a series of changes to the already existing Transit and Transportation Code of the City. Gorbea explained that the law aims to “generate a better road coexistence to ensure respect among citizens … using a cell phone while riding a bicycle or a motorcycle is a risk. It is essential to take a responsible role and postpone the use of cell phones until parks or fully arrived at the destination, avoiding any type of distraction.”
Instead of entirely changing the law, the bill incorporates new bans for cyclists or, as the document defines them, “non-motorized vehicles of two or more wheels, driven with the effort of whoever powers or uses it.”
Additionally, the Gorbea considers that “the use of headphones while biking seriously threatens the person because they lose their ability to hear and cannot tell what is happening around them, losing the ability to react.”
Apparently, the bill was received by the committee with little opposition, so we could be seeing changes involving cyclists on the streets very soon. If it passes, traffic regulators will begin issuing fines to those cyclists who do not comply with the new law.
According to already existing penalties regarding the use of cell phones, sanctions state that in the case of holding a “technological device” while driving, the standard fine is established at approximately AR $1600. However, it is doubled when the driver is caught writing or sending text messages and the fine could easily reach a total of AR $3200.
These are some substantial fines that could cause serious damage in the bank account. So, as we head into spring and the temperatures heat up, it’s likely more pedestrians will opt for walking or biking as a means of transportation. If this bill is passed, hopefully everyone will begin to be a bit more mindful in the streets of what’s flying past them, who they are flying past, where we are looking and whether there are some law enforcers nearby looking to jump into the mix.