Bicycle safety

Cyclists holding mobile phones get fined

Fietscontrole april 2024, foto DUB
A traffic check at USP. Photo: DUB

On Wednesday, April 17, enforcers and police from the municipality of Utrecht conducted a traffic check at the intersection of Sorbonnelaan and Leuvenlaan. It was an initiative by Goedopweg, an organisation that promotes bicycle safety. The check began later than planned due to heavy rain showers that forced the enforcers to seek shelter. The weather cleared around a quarter past five, and, with a rainbow in the sky, the enforcers positioned themselves along the bike path. It was a good time to do it, as many cyclists passed by.

The Utrecht East region, which includes USP, is one of the busiest cycling areas in the Netherlands. Research by the municipality and Goedopweg shows that a greater sense of safety encourages more people to cycle. The current initiative follows a previous campaign for cyclists on February 27 at the same intersection. Like before, the police, the neighbourhood officer, enforcers, municipal employees, and a mobile bicycle repairman were present. The latter was there to immediately fix any defects on the bicycles. The enforcers were focused on catching mobile phone use in traffic, alongside other rules such as running red lights.

Not enough
“You know what you’re doing isn’t allowed, right?” asks Officer Abdel to a cyclist who had tried to hide his phone in his jacket when seeing the traffic control. “I got off the bike path,” he attempts. “I shouldn’t have kept cycling on the sidewalk – you saw I hesitated, right?”

“My colleague in plain clothes saw you further down the road with your phone in your hand while you were on your bike,” Abdel emphasises. They discuss the dangers of using phones in traffic. The cyclist shows some self-reflection by giving himself a grade: “I know, I get a 5.”

“That’s not enough,” says the officer wittily. “I’m a teacher, I know exactly what that means,” sighs the cyclist. “We just want you to get home safely,” Abdel replies. “I wholeheartedly agree with you and this is not meant sarcastically,” says the teacher, who promises not to cycle with phone in hand anymore. This time, he gets off with a warning. A fine would have cost him 160 euros plus administrative fees.

Fietscontrole twee, april 2024, foto DUB

Not only young people
Fabienne van der Werf, from the municipality of Utrecht, says young people are not always the ones getting fined the most. On February 27, most cyclists who were fined for having their phones in their hands were aged between 40 and 50, she explains.

Phones are addictive devices, add the officers. The temptation to check something on your phone often wins over traffic safety. “If we could make people more aware of this, they might make different choices.”

Only six fines were issued during the second action. Five were for cycling with a phone in hand and one for a moped that was on the bike path illegally. No fines were issued for missing or broken bicycle lights, as the check ended before it got dark.

Tags: fiets