Almost half of all bike users – 48 per cent – admitted taking their eyes off the road in order to gawp at someone they found good-looking.
And being drawn to someone who is easy on the eye was classed as a greater ‘distraction’ for cyclists than either receiving a text or chat message or riding past an interesting billboard.
The research has been revealed by the University of Valencia, Spain, who wanted to analyse how a distracted cyclist can lead to ‘risky behaviours’ and ‘traffic crashes’.
Meanwhile, lead researcher Sergio Useche also noticed a huge difference between genders – with males far more likely to have their head turned.
He explained: “People found attractive by cyclists—as a source of distraction—may imply a gender-related difference.
“Indeed, the differential frequency analysis showed that the prevalence among male cyclists was 62.1% – three out of five participants – and only 24.5% among females – one out of four.”
The research has also been welcomed by UK cycling guru Scott Snaith, founder of bike retail firm www.50Cycles.com, a specialist in the new breed of electric E-bikes.
He said: “Any advice to make cyclists safer on the road has to be applauded.
“And it’s subtle behaviours like the ones highlighted in this new study which could prove crucial.
“We’re all obviously aware that the behaviour of other road users is going to be a risk for those on two wheels. It’s pretty obvious.
“But many cyclists might have misjudged just how dangerous other common distractions really are.
“Let’s be honest – most of us have probably stolen a glance at a passerby while on the road. It’s human nature.
“But by being aware of the pitfalls of concentrating on someone we find attractive, we can attempt to keep our eyes on the road in future.”
The study itself – published in the journal ‘Peer J’ – saw 1,064 cyclists from 20 different countries, including the UK, filling in an online questionnaire about their pedal-related ‘habits, behaviours and accidents’.
And – predictably – a higher distraction score indicated an increased likelihood of crashing.
The biggest concerns for cyclists were the ‘behaviour of other users of the road’ and ‘obstacles in the way’, with 84 per cent of respondents ticking it as a ‘source of distraction’.
Others were ‘weather conditions’ (69 per cent), ‘phone calls’ (65 per cent) and ‘own thoughts’ (55 per cent).
And then ‘people that I find attractive’ (48 per cent) rated as a more likely source of distraction than ‘text messages or chats’ (46 per cent) or billboards (35 per cent).
Useche said that while older cyclists – aged 55 plus – were more likely to be distracted, it was the younger age categories who were more likely to have an accident.
He adds: “Our results showed that older individuals were the ones presenting a higher rate of distractors affecting their riding.
“Another age-related issue that is worth discussing is the fact that, although cycling distractions increase with age, traffic crash rates maintained a negative association with the age of cyclists.
“This phenomenon could be interpreted in the light of the results provided by some empirical studies, which reported that younger cyclists tend to present more risk-taking behaviours, and to have a higher risk of being involved in a traffic crash than older users.”
When it comes to common distractions, it is NOT currently illegal in the UK to use a handheld phone while cycling.
However, various police forces – most recently Cambridgeshire Police – warned cyclists that they risk committing the offence of ‘careless cycling’ if they are ‘cycling on a road without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration of others.’
The offence of careless cycling carries a maximum £2,500 fine.