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Urbana’s Cellular Phone Ban Decision Postponed Again

Urbana City Council did not provide many answers concerning the proposed cell phone ban scheduled for a vote on Monday. Plenty of questions, however, were put forward. Should cyclists be prohibited from riding and talking? How will a cell phone ban affect our twin cities? And the fundamental question, should the ordinance be for hand-held cell phones only or should it include hands-free units?

City Attorney Ronald O’Neal asked for more time to draft the ordinance.

The city attorney and his staff have been looking into the issue of the advocacy of cell phone bans. They have been trying to locate information from Santa Fe and New York City, who are or have compiled data about the results to their traffic accidents after passing such a ban, O’Neal says.

“I generally feel like we need to do something but being the very first city – since there are no cities or no countries that have banned Bluetooth or wireless devices, they ban just the hand-held devices – I’m concerned about the city establishing a stringent precedence that you don’t need to establish, ” Alderwoman Danielle Chynoweth says.

O’Neal and his staff are also discussing different models for the ban.

“I’m getting a lot of people who favor us doing something,” Alderman Charlie Smyth says. “In fact, three-fourths to two-thirds of the people I run into…encourage us to move forward with the ban.”

Chynoweth asked O’Neal to look for precedence for a ban on talking on phones while biking, although Chynoweth says that adding a measure such as that to the existing bill would be “going to far.”

“It’s dangerous enough to be riding a bicycle on a road with cars,” Mayor Laurel Prussing says. “A road with cars with the drivers talking on cell phones and the bikers talking on cell phones is a truly terrifying scenario.”

The city council pushed the decision back until Monday, May 12.

In other council news, the UPTV controversy, concerning an anti-Semitic program from out-of-state airing on Urbana’s public access television garnered more comments from the community. Individuals advocating free speech and the First Amendment spoke alongside community members urging a change in the UPTV policies.

Some citizens objected to the barring of out-of-town programs in favor of keeping national shows such as Gay USA and Democracy Now! which are currently shown on UPTV.

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