Once again, when it comes to bicycles, the Netherlands is ahead of the game. A draft law banning the use of mobile phones while cycling, if passed, will to come into effect next July, extending a 2002 law that banned car and lorry drivers from using them at the wheel (and which fined them €230 for doing so). There has been concern that the changing nature of phone use, with the unstoppable rise of smartphones and unlimited data, is increasing the number of accidents.
“The fact is that whenever you’re on the road you should be paying full attention and not doing anything at all on a phone,” said Dutch transport minister, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen.
British social media has been ablaze in recent times at the belief that authorities and media are unfairly targeting cyclists, seemingly ‘cracking down’ on the activity. In August the idea of introducing a ‘death by dangerous cycling’ law in Britain surfaced, accompanied by an appalling – and quickly deleted – tweet from the Conservative Party, which showed law-abiding cycling commuters alongside the chilling words “We’re cracking down on dangerous cycling”, which ignored the fact 99.4 per cent of deaths on our roads in the last 10 years involved a motor vehicle.
There was also the recent decision by south London’s Stanley Park High to ban kids from cycling into school unless they put a school-issued registration plate on their bikes. Head teacher, Amit Amin, said it’s being done to identify kids who “endanger themselves and others”.
Banning mobile phones in the saddle, however, shouldn’t be seen in such terms. It’s something we could all get behind – even if the punishments for motorists, given their capacity to cause harm, should be far greater.
It’s hard to think of a situation where using a phone, whether that be texting or making calls, while moving in the saddle, is the right thing to do. Not using a phone can only benefit a cyclist’s safety, as well as that of others.
Few things make our blood boil like seeing a motorist using their phone at the wheel, but the same goes for cyclists texting, or pedestrians walking, head down, while tapping out messages or browsing the web, oblivious to the fact they’re about to walk straight into us. Our inability to switch off from our electronic devices is a problem that has gripped the whole of society.
It may well be a hard law to enforce, particularly given the ban on mobiles, according to NOS.nl, a public news organisation in the country, extends to most electronic devices, including bike computers, which would spell trouble for the navigationally challenged.
But we think we can all agree that unplugging from our devices, to free ourselves from the tyranny of email, is, in 2018, part of the fun of cycling. It’s a truly mindful activity, one that we should be able to enjoy in the moment.
This article appears in The Spin in issue 347 of Cycling Plus and is available now. New subscribers this month get a pair of Lusso Thermal cycling tights. Click here to claim the offer.