Cyclists’ phone use in relation to proximate environmental characteristics - A qualitative study

Rebecca Karstens Brandt*, Sonja Haustein, Mette Møller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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The use of phones in traffic can cause distraction and thus affect the safety of cyclists. Unlike distractions external to the cyclists, phone use is initiated by the cyclists themselves, but is always performed in a contextual setting that affords, moderates, or constrains the action. The purpose of this study is to investigate how the proximate environment, including cyclists' personal items, affects cyclists’ phone use with the aim of improving the development of preventive measures.

The empirical foundation is 19 qualitative, semi-structured interviews with cyclists in Denmark (n = 9) and the Netherlands (n = 10). We use thematic analysis and affordance theory to identify proximate environmental characteristics that facilitate or inhibit phone use while cycling and discuss the results in relation to cognitive dual-process theory's distinction between impulsive and reflective behaviours.

Characteristics of bicycle design, clothes, and infrastructure design offer accessibility and suitable conditions for phone use and are associated with whether cyclists use their phone in traffic, how they use it, and for what purpose.

The distinction between impulsive and reflective phone use highlights a need for preventive measures that considers decision-making processes. Findings on associations between phone use and proximate environmental characteristics suggest use of phone accessories (e.g. headphones), inaccessible phone placement, and muting notifications as strategies to prevent impulsive use, while legal measures possibly limit reflective phone use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101283
JournalJournal of Transport & Health
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Cyclist safety
  • Distractions
  • Phone use
  • Traffic behaviour
  • Affordance theory


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