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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cell phones while riding

Recently our brilliant and evidently under inspired political class here in California, has derived a new means of infringing on the rights of its unrepresented masses. In spite of resounding outcry from all but the most single minded of souls, our lofty nonrepresentatives signed into law a vehicle code banning the bending of the arm at the elbow while holding a cellular phone. (More on that later)

As I understand it, somewhere back in the annals of time, a multi-tasking driver infringed on the rights of a less gifted motorist. It is hard to say what the actual offense may have been. Whether the innocent party was merely cut off in traffic or actually suffered physical harm, it no longer matters.
What does matter, is that the multi-tasker, was among other things, talking on his mobile phone. The blame was too easily placed on the most innocuous of devices and thus the trend was set for the impressionable to follow.
Likewise, I firmly believe that the initial contempt for those talking on the phone while driving was a direct manifestation of class envy. The wealthy were the first to flaunt their new mobility, and the reaction from the proletariat was predictable. Unfortunately, for the lower classes, the discrimination took hold far too strong and the contempt became cliche. Though we are all now slaves to the ring tone library, many continue to harbor an animosity now inapplicable.

This brings me to the new infringement - er, law.
The very basic premise of the law is bogus. That those talking on cell phones while driving are less capable of making wise vehicular decisions than those merely talking to others in the same vehicle. Have you never rested your head on your hand while mindlessly chatting with others in the car? Worse yet, multiple participants in the conversation including some sitting often several rows behind you? Even worse yet, multiple participants under the age of accountability, punching, pinching, and performing other acts of endearment while placing wads of bubble gum under your car's seats?
Makes talking on a cell phone seem pretty tame huh?
Let's all face it; driving and talking on a phone is not that difficult. Granted some cannot do it, and should be responsible enough to avoid it.
The vast majority can and should be able to.

This does not however, reach to the true heart of the irony.
While holding the phone to the ear is illegal while driving, dialing same phone is not.
You answer this question - Which of the 2 noted activities requires one to take their eyes off the road?
Along with the same legislative infringement came NOT the mandate to stop text messaging or emailing while driving.
I don't have to explain this point, or ask rhetorical questions.
Bingo - again you got it.

OK so now you've answered your phone, and the cyborg attachment on your right ear has activated, what now? Well you talk of course - and reach down and pick up the q tip and clean your ears - legal or not?
Or, your reach down and extract the greasy and mal-intentioned Big Mac from it's "To Go" wrapper and begin consumption in the listener's ear - legal or not?
You drop a mayonnaise covered tomato on your Gucci pant leg - distracting or not?

Point made. The cell phone is not the problem. The distracted driver is the problem.
Remove all cup holders within reach of the driver, banish all drive through windows, place a sound proof and otherwise impermeable barrier between the front and rear seats of any vehicle capable of transporting a child seat - and then tell me I can't hold my phone to my ear while driving.

But wait, the post is about "Cell phones while riding."
Yes, I talk on my cell phone while riding my bike.
Don't you?

Often I wear my blue tooth headset while talking and riding, but more often, I just pull my Treo 750 out of its neat little compartment at the top of my CamelBack, and answer the call.
I've dropped my phone before, and it has the scars to prove it. I had to re-create my "A" button with JB weld style epoxy because it sheared off in one fall. (The phone fell - not me) I've even gotten pretty good at masking the fact that I'm on my bike. (Handy for those times that clients or employees call in the middle of the day).

So, does that make me a worse cyclist than others when I'm on the phone?


Am I likely to stop any time soon.


Life is full of calculated risks.
Missing that call telling me that my contact lenses are ready for pickup at Wal-Mart is not a risk I'm willing to take.

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