When you hear this question asked you will get varied answers and much controversy around whether cyclist can wear headphones or not.
So, can cyclists wear headphones?
Many cyclists would agree that it’s dangerous for someone to wear headphones while cycling. Having headphones on both ears playing louder than normal sounds weakens a cyclist senses and poses a threat to their safety. It’s important that a cyclist is keenly aware of what’s going on around them and eliminate distractions.
Having that being said, some cyclist may feel the opposite and argue that it depends on where you are cycling and how busy the surroundings are.
I invite you to consider this argument carefully and see whether or not it’s a good idea for a cyclist to wear headphones.
Should Cyclist Wear Headphones?
When someone is wearing headphones and playing sounds of any level of decibels, it’s a given that you will likely be distracted.
Any person operating a moving vehicle whether it’s a bicycle, car, or motor-driven device should think about the safety concerns wearing headphones might pose.
Being an avid cyclist myself, I used to think it was ok to wear headphones whether it covered or plugged into one ear or both.
But over the years of riding in busy streets and heavily trafficked intersections, I found out really quick this may not be safe.
I have never been in a bicycle accident with a car before while wearing headphones, but I know others who have.
Covering or plugging your ears up with headphones and music can keep cyclists from hearing oncoming vehicles, emergency sirens, and other noises. It’s safer for you to avoid distractions and have all your senses while riding.
Many cycling events may even prevent you from wearing headphones while participating in a ride or race because accidents can happen.
It only takes less than a moment to be caught off guard and have an accident happen.
So, If a cyclist still insists on wearing headphones, how should they wear them?
Consider these safety tips:
- Never wear headphones or earbuds that cover both ears
- Wear the headphone or earbud in one ear facing opposite the traffic
- Keep the volume down low enough you can hear outside noise or a conversation next to you
- Don’t get distracted with music apps and making selections
- Limit use of headphones to areas where only bikes are allowed or there is no traffic, people, or dangers
- Instead of wearing headphones, consider using a mobile speaker that clips on or mounts to a bike
- Try wearing Bone Conduction Wireless Headphones, Available on Amazon.com
- Some cyclist will take the approach to not wear headphone at all to avoid any type of close calls or accidents
It may be someone’s personal preference whether or not they should wear headphones while cycling, but it’s important to not just think of oneself.
To put this in perspective, a cyclist wearing headphones not only poses a danger to themselves but to others.
Here where I live in Sacramento, CA there is a beautiful trail name American River Bike Trail that many cyclists and pedestrian use at their leisure.
If I were cycling along that trail with headphones and music blasting, I could run into an oncoming pedestrian walking along the trail.
The last thing I would want for any cyclist wearing headphones is to suffer a disaster due to not considering the safety of others including themselves.
Is It Illegal To Wear Headphones Cycling?
In many states, it may not be illegal to wear headphones while cycling. What we do know is that it’s illegal in most states to wear headphones while driving a motor vehicle.
Here where I live in California, it is illegal for cyclist and drivers of motor vehicles to wear headphones. If caught, a person can get hit with a fine of up to $160.
This may be a surprise to some, but in California cyclist have all the laws and responsibilities that motorist do.
You can read more information and details about the law in California that prohibits the use of wearing headphones, here.
It’s also important to note that the law excludes certain personnel or situations that may warrant wearing headphones or earbuds.
There are many states with laws that apply to both motor vehicles and bicyclist.
But you will have to read the fine print, sort-of-speak, in each states motor vehicle handbook or bike coalition’s website to know for sure what’s prohibited.
What the law might state in those handbooks, prohibit headphones or earbuds covering or being plugged into both ears.
Is It Dangerous To Wear Headphones Cycling?
Many times you will hear that it’s dangerous to wear headphones in a race or an organized event, but what about in other cases?
Riding a bike in a highly trafficked area or where there are unforeseen obstacles would make wearing headphones dangerous.
It’s dangerous enough to ride alongside motor vehicles, buses, and motorcycles who all are driving for a position or space on the road.
Wearing headphones cycling is also distracting whether you have both ears covered or not.
Some would argue that it’s safe to wear headphones while cycling country roads or bike only trails.
But it’s still as important having one’s senses and being self-aware riding around in the city as it is for the cyclist riding the countryside.
Cycling about the country may have low trafficked roads but you may encounter other risks such as poor road conditions or very little light due to limited street lighting.
There are studies that break down data showing the effects that listening to headphones while cycling can have on a person’s “auditory perception”.
Anything that limits your senses can cause you to have a slowed reaction time or ability to anticipate risk or dangers.
It’s better to avoid the risk altogether in my opinion, which is why I have chosen not to wear headphones or earbuds while cycling.
I would love to listen to music privately with earbuds in both ears while riding solo but I think the risks far outweigh the benefits it might have.
Still, despite the risk and potential accidents that can occur wearing headphones or earbuds cycling, people will still continue to wear them.
It’s almost impossible to stop someone from doing it as they may feel it’s a personal preference and that they are a caution rider when wearing headphones.
In my opinion, I would agree on the side of others to avoid taking unnecessary risk to your safety and of those around you.
Will You Cycle With Headphones?
If you live where there are no cars, it’s very quiet and little to no obstacles, then you might choose to cycle with headphones.
Depending on where a cyclist lives, he or she may wear headphones while riding because they may not have as many risk or obstacles that those who ride in cities do.
Some cyclist would prefer to wear headphones and listen to music or podcast to supplement their ride.
Also, many cyclists will argue that music has an effect on their riding whether they are doing intervals or long distance rides.
Music might help them past the time or enhance their riding performance.
It’s also true too, that many people react differently when listening to music while riding, which may affect them positively or negatively.
I assume that whoever is fortunate to live in an area where the risk is low and wearing headphones don’t place them in danger, are using good judgment.
Each individual will have to make that call on whether or not it’s safe for them to wear headphones.
Now, if our circumstances were different and any risks, dangers or threats were not an issue, I’m sure everyone would wear headphones while cycling.
I love music myself and If I were in a state of bicycle Utopia, then, of course, I would listen to music with headphones or earbuds.
But the reality is everyone’s situation will be different.
The choice to wear headphones whether it’s legal in your state or not will be totally up to you.
Can I Listen To Music While Biking, Safely?
There are in fact many ways you can listen to music safely on a bike without using headphones or earbuds. Some cyclist chooses one or more of these options to safely listen to music riding:
- Mount portable speakers
- Keep the volume way down
- Attach a boombox to a cargo rack
- Place a portable JBL or Beats Audio speaker in the bottle cage of the bike
- Try a Sena Helmet with external speakers
Should Cyclist Be Fined For Wearing Headphones?
There are reasons why laws are in place and that is to regulate or control our behavior. Laws also help govern what’s right or wrong morally.
The law that rules fining a cyclist for wearing headphones is not typical of all states and many cyclists would not agree that cyclists should be fined. It might surprise you that in some areas cyclists agree that there should be a fine placed on a cyclist who doesn’t feel they need to follow any rules.
Those that are in favor of a fine agree that this will stop some cyclists with the entitlement mindset that they can do as they please on the road.