Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us know how texting while driving can be distracting and make us dangerous to other cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists. But, we may have overlooked the dangers of texting while biking. This practice is not only dangerous to you and others; it is quickly becoming illegal in many states.
Texting while biking produces several unique problems that make the practice particularly dangerous for cyclists and those around them. Unlike a texting car driver; a texting cyclist that is distracted and hits a pothole or road debris is likely to crash causing injury. A study from the Netherlands found that texting while biking caused riders to slow down erratically, experience decreased awareness, and wobble and veer in and out of the bike lane. Any of these distracted behaviors could have resulted in the cyclist hitting an opening car door, running into a pedestrian, or wandering into oncoming car traffic.
Experienced endurance cyclist Mark Henderson said that when he tried texting while biking he began to wobble and wasn’t aware of his decreased riding ability until halfway through the text. The simultaneous activities of balancing a bike, typing on a small key pad, and trying to process the quickly changing environment dangerously overwhelms the cognitive capacities of even the most experienced riders.
In addition to texting, a recent study found that listening to music while cycling can also cause dangerous distraction. The study found that 83% of riders who listened to music while biking did not hear warning cues like horns, whistles, or yells that could have indicated potentially dangerous cycling situations. In urban environments it is particularly important for cyclists to have all their senses working to identify potential hazards.
Texting while biking is inherently dangerous, and the practice is becoming increasingly expensive for those riders that are caught doing it. Many states have begun making texting while biking illegal with stiff fines for those cyclists that are caught in the act. In Chicago, fines start at $20 for a first offense and increase to $100 for subsequent violations. If your texting causes an accident the fine can go as high as $500.
As more cities look to biking as a solution to ease congested transportation systems, the interaction between bikers, cars, and pedestrians will increase. The best way to foster goodwill and keep those bike lanes being built is to be a good bike citizen. There is already angst from commuters that cyclists blow through red lights and weave in and out of sidewalks; let’s not add dangerous texting while biking to the list of potential complaints. Cycling is a responsible sustainable form of transportation, show fellow commuters that bikers are just as responsible and put that phone in your bike bag while riding.