Why you shouldn’t be Instagramming your rides

A recent study on attention highlights the risks of cell phone use while cycling

February 18th, 2020 by | Posted in News | Tags: , , , ,

Many cyclists are guilty of a little mid-ride picture snap. The sun is shining, the road looks perfect and you want to share the feeling of a great day on the bike with your followers. It seems like an innocent, quick little action, but a recent study has found that you may be putting yourself at risk when you take out your phone on a ride.

The study out of National Chin-Yi University of Technology used electroencephalography (EEG) to study the impact of distracted cycling. The EEG system detects activity in the prefrontal cortex, the region associated with interpretation, judgment, attention and relaxation.

Young sportsman riding bicycle, holding smartphone, sunny autumn

In the study, participants rode in a straight line, then through a winding course while wearing EEG headgear. Researchers used these rides to establish a baseline of the cyclist’s brainwaves. As they rode straight they were “relaxed” and as they avoided obstacles on the winding course they were “attentive”.

Next, they had participants look at a cell phone as they rode. They found that, predictably, looking at the screen of a cell phone distracts the rider’s attention from the road. Actually using the cellphone (as opposed to just looking at the screen) will divert, not just distract, the attention of a cyclist, putting them even more at risk of a crash or collision.

Reduced attention

These findings are in line with a study published in the Journal of Ergonomics. Researchers found that participants using a cell phone to text slowed down by almost 3 km/h, tended to drift closer to the middle of the road and swerved back and forth more. They also found that phone users were less aware of objects in their peripheral vision.

photo: Mobile phone use while cycling: Incidence and effects on behaviour and safety

A number of studies have shown that reduced attention can place cyclists at risk of sustaining an injury. It may be safest to wait until a light or for a chance to pull over before getting out your phone to post your #roadslikethese.