Netherlands considers ban on mobile phone use while cycling
Fri 27 May 2016
The Dutch transport minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen is reconsidering a proposed ban on mobile phone use while cycling, following a recent death and increasing smartphone-related bike incidents.
The ban was originally rejected over a year ago, as the government believed it would be impossible to enforce. Authorities instead channelled efforts into a public awareness campaign which launched two years ago, in partnership with several mobile operators including T-Mobile and Vodafone. The initiative worked with apps such as Fietsmodus which rewards users for staying offline in traffic.
According to the ministry, the campaign has not achieved its intended effect and more needs to be done to control phone use while on two wheels. It released figures which found that one in three 12-21 year olds use their smartphones while cycling. Phones were also said to have been involved in 20% of accidents involving under-25s.
The Hague bus and tram company HTM has also claimed that its drivers have to take action to avoid incidents at least 40 times a day due to cyclists distracted by their phones.
The problem has risen to particular prominence after Michael Kulkens, the father of a 13-year-old boy killed while using his phone on a bike, decided to campaign and raise awareness. “The woman who killed my son is absolutely blameless and her life has been turned upside down as well,” said Kulkens.
The Netherlands, with over 18 million bikes to a population of 17 million, has investigated many ways to bring down the high bicycle accident rates. In 2014, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) developed an intelligent bicycle which runs on electricity and features a forward-facing radar below the handle bars, as well as a rear camera. The detection devices, linked to an onboard computer, trigger a vibrating warning system in the bike’s saddle and handlebars when they sense danger.