It’s common knowledge that distracted driving isn’t a good idea.  But what about biking while texting, making a phone call, or listening to music?

Cyclists are often the unfortunate victims of a distracted driver, but biking while texting has its own risks and can have just as disastrous results.  Because of this, some cities and states are beginning to crack down on distracted bikers. While there has been little definitive research on the costs of distracted cycling, it only takes one accident to know that driving or riding distracted is a bad idea.

Photo by Tom Woodward via Flickr

Photo by Tom Woodward via Flickr

Is distracted biking a problem?

Marathon bicyclist Mark Henderson says he has only texted once during a ride but says it was “one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever had” (“Two Wheeled Texting?“).  As Henderson was texting, he started to wobble on his bike but didn’t notice until he was halfway through the text.  Henderson is not a novice when it comes to biking, but even he lost control when his mind and hands were distracted.  Though the statistics for distracted driving are much higher, that is in part because there are many more cars than bikes on the road.  Even then, there are still thousands of cases of cyclists being injured or injuring others while riding distracted.

In the Netherlands, using a cell phone while riding your bike is very common.  But a study at the University of Groningen showed how texting changes the way you ride.  When using a phone while biking, riders:

  • Slowed down drastically
  • Experienced a decreased visibility and awareness to what was around them
  • Wavered, wobbled, and veered in the bike lane

All of these problems not only increase your likelihood of crashing and getting injured, it endangers everyone else on the road as well.

Distracted biking also includes listening to music.  In the study, 83% of people who listened to music while biking missed important sounds and cues to stop cycling, putting them at a higher risk for crashing and being injured.  It’s important to pay attention to the sounds around you when you ride.  Not being able to hear a truck backing up or someone shout a warning can be life-threatening.

What does the law say?

Some cities, like Chicago, already have a law against biking while using a phone, while others, like New York City, are following suit.  Some states now even consider cyclists as “distracted drivers” and fine them the same amount as someone driving a car while texting.

In November 2014 a new bill in New York was submitted that would penalize those caught using a phone while biking.  In regards to this bill, Brooklyn Councilman Mark Treyger quotes “If you’re riding a bicycle and texting you’re obviously not paying  attention to where you’re going, and you could injure yourself or someone else.  If it’s reckless for drivers to do it–which it is–it’s just as irresponsible for cyclists” (NY Daily News).

Distracted bikers can be just as hazardous as distracted drivers, but distracted cyclists can still cause injuries.  The limited visibility and lack of focus can cause a cyclist to swerve which could have a domino effect on surrounding pedestrians and drivers.  Distracted cyclists can also increase the risk of collision for themselves; when your mind and hands are distracted you could crash into something you would have seen otherwise.

What else should I know about Utah biking laws?

Bike book slightly forward

For more information about the laws of the road and your rights as a cyclist–as well as some insurance tips–check out a copy of our free book, The Utah Bicycle Accident Handbook.

If you have been injured while riding a bike, Utah Bicycle Lawyers may be able to help.  As cyclists, we understand the trauma and stress that can accompany cycling injuries.  If you have questions or would like to come in for a free consultation, please reach us at (801) 506-0800.