Lawmaker pulls cell-bicycle bill

After a day of unrelenting ridicule, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick decided yesterday evening to withdraw his bill to ban talking on a cell phone while riding a bike.

•••

Published January, 20, 2007 by Home Tribune News
Associated Press 

TRENTON, NJ — After a day of unrelenting ridicule, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick decided yesterday evening to withdraw his bill to ban talking on a cell phone while riding a bike.

"Even my friends didn't like the bill," the Union County Republican said.

A legislative committee on Thursday approved the bill, which would make it illegal for people to use a hand-held telephone while riding a bicycle on a public road. Hands-free devices would still be allowed. Violators would face fines ranging from $100 to $250.

Bramnick said the bill was meant to protect bicyclists and the people they might run into while riding and yakking. He had described the plan as a "common sense proposal."

But the idea crashed harder than a rider flipping over the handlebars.

Criticism came from all angles, from talk radio callers to constituents to casual acquaintances, Bramnick said.

He conceded that even he was having doubts while pitching the bill to fellow lawmakers on Thursday.

"I could feel in my own voice that, as I talked about the bill, I started to have some questions in my mind about my own bill," Bramnick said.

Nonetheless, it was released to the full Assembly, drawing instant media attention followed by a strong dose of mockery, some directed at the bill by fellow lawmakers.

"As my father used to tell me, "You can't legislate common sense,' and that's exactly what this bill tries to do, as the Legislature has already tried to do on so many other occasions," said Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris.

Pete Garnich, owner of Knapp's Cyclery in Lawrence, was among those who failed to see the need. His shop sponsors weekly group rides, and Garnich said he can't recall anyone talking on a cell phone while riding a bike.

"I wouldn't say it's a problem," he said. "You can't breathe and talk. It's absolutely ridiculous."

All of which contributed to Bramnick's change of heart by yesterday evening.

"The thing is, sometimes you make mistakes, simple as that," Bramnick said.