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Dutch roll out fines for mobile-using cyclists

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The Hague (AFP)

Dutch cyclists will from Monday face a 95-euro ($108) fine for holding a mobile phone while riding their bike, in a bid to cut a growing number of accidents.

In a country which has more bicycles than people, the sight of cyclists glued to their smartphones as they hurtle along canalsides is a common one.

But the Netherlands is now extending laws that so far only apply to motorists, under which it is illegal to use all but hands-free devices on the move.

"My call to all cyclists is clear: keep your cell phone and 95 euros in your pocket," Transport Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen said on Friday.

"We often think we can multitask in traffic, but we can't," said the minister, who backed up the message by posing on a bike with a phone in the back pocket of her jeans, upon which a slogan about the new law was embroidered.

The ban also covers tablets, music players and cameras. It only applies while moving, so using devices at traffic lights remains legal.

Ministers announced the change last September but held a public consultation on what the fines for bike users should be.

The penalty for bike users is less than that for car and lorry drivers, who face maximum fines of 240 euros.

The law will also be extended on Monday to drivers of the Netherlands' ubiquitous trams, who will face the same fine as motorists.

The fines follow a campaign by Michael Kulkens, whose 13-year-old son Tommy-Boy was killed in a bike accident while looking at a phone in 2015.

Speaking after the law was introduced last year, Kulkens said: "In my mind, I said: 'We did it Tommy-Boy. We did it'."

Cycling is a way of life in the Netherlands, with an estimated 23 million bikes for some 17 million people and cycle paths that criss-cross its flat landscape.

But the use of mobile phones is a growing hazard, with a smartphone involved in one in five bike accidents involving young people, according to the Dutch Road Safety organisation.

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