How often are cyclists and pedestrians distracted in traffic?



Recent Dutch surveys and observational studies show that many cyclists are engaged in potentially distracting activities. In a survey, well over half the cyclists (56%) between the ages of 12 and 80 reported sometimes using their phones while cycling [4] (also see Table 3). In this study, for all mobile phone activities, young people (aged 12-17) were shown to use their phones while cycling more often than adults. Both adult and young cyclists reported most often using their phones to read messages (38% and 55.5% respectively) or send messages (33% and 54% respectively), to set navigation (33% and 36% respectively), or to take pictures or record videos (33% and 43% respectively). Listening to music also proves to be very popular among cyclists, in particular among young people. Over 70% of 16- to 18-year-old cyclists reported sometimes listening to music while cycling [49]. Recent observational studies found that 17-28% of cyclists used devices while cycling: most (15-22%) listened to music, 2-4% operated a screen, and 0-3% made a call [50] [51] [52] [53]. Telephone use among cyclists seems to increase, in particular the percentage of cyclists listening to music. In 2015, 19% of the cyclists observed were occupied with their phones, and in April 2019 the number grew to 28% [53] [54].


Pedestrians prove to use their phones more often than cyclists or drivers (see also Table 3 below): 84% of 12- to 80-year-old pedestrians reported sometimes using their phones while walking. Similar to cyclists, young pedestrians use their phones more often than adult pedestrians. Both adult and young (aged 12 to 17) pedestrians use their phones mainly to read messages (69% and 75% respectively) and send messages (64% and 75% respectively), to take pictures or record videos (64% and 75% respectively), and to make handheld calls (66% and 70% respectively) [4]. An observational study in six European cities, including Amsterdam, showed that 8% of pedestrians were texting while walking, almost 3% were phoning, and 5% were using ear phones [55]. In all, 16% of pedestrians were occupied with their smartphones. Notably, in Amsterdam the smallest share of pedestrians used a smartphone, viz 8.2%, in contrast to the highest share in Stockholm (23,5%).

Distraction source

Distracting activity

% of cyclists engaged in an activity adults/young people

% pedestrians engaged in an activity adults/young people

Talking on the phone







Operating a screen

Reading messages



Sending messages



Searching for sth./checking one’s phone



Taking pictures/recording videos



Setting navigation on phone



Operating phone to play music



Playing games



Table 3. Percentage of cyclists and pedestrians reporting having been occupied with different distracting activities while cyling and walking respectively [4].

Part of fact sheet

Distraction in traffic

The mobile phone is symbolic of ‘distraction in traffic’.

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