Bicycle lovers in the Netherlands to be hit with fine for using mobile phones while cycling

In a country that has more bikes than people and where cycling is seen as a human right, some people are about to have a nasty shock.

From Monday, anyone using a handheld mobile device while on the road in the Netherlands will be given a €95 (£85) fine.

The new rules for cyclists are part of a law to ensure road users watch the traffic rather than their cameras, tablets, and smartphones.

Vehicle and tram drivers risk a €240 fine, the penalty is €160 for motorbikes and scooters and powered wheelchair users are not exempt either.

“In the traffic, an accident is just around the corner and this is why it’s important for all road users – including cyclists – to keep their eyes and minds on the road and not on their telephone screen,” said transport minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, launching an awareness campaign on Friday.

“We often think that we can multi-task in traffic, but we really can’t," she said. "I have a clear message for all cyclists: keep your phone, and your €95 in your pocket.”

A Dutch obsession | Statistics about cycling in the Netherlands

There are similar rules against cycling with a smartphone in Germany or Belgium, but the Netherlands is thought to be the first country to be cracking down on the practice in such a strategic way – possibly because of the high number of cyclists and their lawless behaviour.

The Netherlands, which has a population of 17 million people, has some 23 million bicycles.  The new law has been years in the making due to social resistance to restrictions on free biking. 

But according to Dutch police, half of the Netherlands’ 10 million smartphone owners currently use them while driving, with a 25 times greater risk of an accident, and leading to tens of deaths and hundreds of injuries each year.

"You can see the problem when you are on the street on your own bike, seeing people ride all over the road when they are on their phone," transport ministry spokesman Ivar Noordenbos told The Daily Telegraph. 

"You can understand, people are distracted. The message is that the best thing to do is keep your eyes and focus on the road, and if you want to send a text or call, just stop."

A man parks his bicycle near Central Station in AmsterdamCredit:
AP Photo/Peter Dejong

But not everyone is happy. Prof Marco te Brömmelstroet, academic director of the Urban Cycling Institute, has tweeted that the so-called texting ban for cyclists (#Appverbod) “lays responsibility on the vulnerable road user” and does not properly address multi-faceted road safety.

He added: “Of course we all come across low-lifes who should really pay more attention. But think about the signal we are giving to vulnerable groups… The ban is wrong, dangerous and perverse.”

However, for Michael Kulkens, whose foundation TButterfly has given road safety lessons to 40,000 children, it is a relief.

His 13-year-old son Tommy-Boy died while listening to music on his telephone while cycling in 2015 and Mr Kulkens has campaigned for the law for three years.

"He was listening to a song called Butterflies – and that is the last song he heard,” he told The Telegraph. “He looked at his phone, didn’t see the car, and never got across the road.

“I can tell every child and parent, don’t use it, but if the law says there’s nothing wrong, it’s very hard to give a good example only by educating people. If the kids know they might get a €95 bill, they will look out for the officers – and just looking out is good.”

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