Friday, November 20, 2009

Philadelphia Proposes Tougher Bike Laws. Could Chicago Be Next?

In the wake of two Philadelphia pedestrians being killed in the past month as a result of collisions with bicyclists, two Philadelphia City Councilmen have proposed legislation that would implement tougher standards for bicyclists on their city streets. The proposed legislation would do the following in Philadelphia:
  • Increase the fine for riding on the sidewalk from $10 to $300;
  • Increase the fine for riding a bicycling with headphones on from $3 to $300; and
  • Implement a fine of $1,000 or confiscation of a bicycle if it is without brakes.
This raises the issue of whether we could see laws like this in Chicago or even statewide. The answer is "possibly." Legislators tend to be "copycats" and borrow legislative ideas from other cities or states. If this legislation gets passed in Philadelphia, I would not be surprised to see something similar in Illinois.

Chicago has already increased the fine for those who ride on the sidewalk on Sheridan Road at the end of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Ald. Ed Burke of Chicago has previously proposed legislation that would "outlaw" bikes without brakes. His legislation specifically targeted "fixies". And it would not be at all surprising to see a law that fined riders who were listening to headphones while riding. Add in the fact that municipalities and states are having budget woes, and the opportunity to generate revenue from fines makes new legislation all the more tempting.

EDIT: The AP is reporting that Philadelphia police officer are now cracking down on bicycle scofflaws. Interestingly, this is being done even before the aforementioned tougher penalties are implemented. There is clearly a change in public policy in Philadelphia regarding bicyclists in the aftermath of the two recent bicycle-related deaths.