Fact

Cyclists - How dangerous is smartphone use while cycling?

It is plausible that distraction due to the use of a smartphone while cycling increases the risk of a crash. When cyclists look at the phone screen, they do not have their eyes on the road and when they use ear- or headphones to listen to music, they cannot hear other traffic approach. Phone use can also result in cyclists being distracted from traffic around them. It is unclear how compensatory behaviour (such as cycling at lower speeds) decreases this risk in turn. Ultimately, it is hard to say to which extent smartphone use affects crash risk of cyclists, because no recent data are available: there is no (adequate) registration nor is there recent research. Two older Dutch studies indicated that phone use preceded and possibly played a part in 3 to 4% of the bicycle crashes with ‘some injury’ [26] [27]. An analysis of device use in general (including listening to music) estimated a maximum of 9% of bicycle crashes with ‘some injury’ where device use possibly played a role. This percentage was higher for the age group 12-34 years: 17-18%. It is uncertain to which extent these percentages are still valid.

Measurements in The Hague showed that about 20% of the light-moped riders and cyclists  is occupied with his or her smartphone [21]. Measurements in ten different cities in the Netherlands showed that of all 7707 cyclists who participated in the study 24% used devices; 17% listened to music, 4% operated a screen and 3% talked on the phone [28]. De Waard et al. [29] found that Dutch cyclists increasingly use the smartphone for texting instead of phone calls. This is an undesirable development because typing text messages has the strongest effect on cycling behaviour [27] [29] [30] [31].

For more information see SWOV Fact sheet Phone use by cyclists and pedestrians.

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