Phoning While Cycling
More cyclists are using cell phones when pedalling, raising concerns that this distraction could cause traffic accidents. Now a study in The Netherlands finds that bicyclists seldom crash while on the phone.
The study began by tallying how often people use cell phones while biking. Researchers watched cyclists in the city of Groningen, where they observed 2.8 percent of cyclists using a cell phone. Three-quarters of these bikers were talking on the phone, while the rest were text messaging or entering a phone number.
Next researchers contacted bicyclists who had been in accidents. Only one-half percent of the cyclists reported using their phone when the accident happened. That rate is less than one-fifth the frequency that researchers saw of bikers handling a cell phone at any given time.
Researchers then probed how using a cell phone affects the way people ride their bikes. For this part of the study, volunteers were recruited to talk, text and listen to music while biking.
Monitoring of the volunteers revealed that when talking on a phone, cyclists' peripheral vision decreases and their mental effort increases. Notably, bikers reduce their speed when handling a phone. Compared with talking, text messaging has an even greater effect on bicycling performance.
The study concludes that people on bikes have a low accident rate when using cell phones because they slow down.
Dick de Waard, Paul Schepers, Wieke Ormel and Karel Brookhuis. 2010. Mobile phone use while cycling: Incidence and effects on behaviour and safety. Ergonomics. 53(1): 30-42.