A few thoughts on earbuds while cycling…
A recent thread on the JSF forums asked about earbud use while cycling. I replied (duplicated below) with my thoughts, but I am curious to know how other cyclists feel about their use. Feel free to comment here or on the forums.
I believe that only two states (Florida and Rhode Island) completely prohibit the use of earbuds while cycling on public roads. Three states (California, Delaware and Maryland) allow the use of earbuds use in one ear. All other states, to my knowledge, place no restrictions on their use.
Personally I use earbuds (I like the MEElectronics Sport-Fi M6 earbuds) when riding solo on open roads, but I never wear them in a group.
Here’s my complete take, which I posted to the above-reference thread on the forums:
When riding solo I almost always wear earbuds, but I never wear them in a group. Although technically illegal on Florida roads (one of only two states that completely disallows earbud use), I don’t feel earbuds make riding any less safe in most situations. I can still hear things around me, and cars approaching from behind happens pretty much non-stop anyway. So it’s not like hearing the cars a little sooner is going to change how I’m riding–I always assume a car is behind me. Besides, the wind noise is generally so loud that hearing is difficult anyway.If I’m on a particularly congested or busy road, I’ll go ahead and pop the earbuds out. I would never have them in while doing city riding, for example (which I never do anyway).
I always look behind me before making any kind of lane position change, such as taking the lane. Relying on hearing instead of a visual is dangerous, IMO; this is especially true these days with nearly silent electric and hybrid cars everywhere. Being able to look behind you while riding straight is an important skill to master.
It’s interesting that the vast majority of states are okay with earbuds, while only a tiny fraction are not. Are the two states that don’t allow earbuds suggesting that deaf people, or people who are hard of hearing, should not be allowed to ride bikes on public roads? There are no laws against that, as far as I know, so the earbud law seems like a contradiction to me.
So I don’t feel that riding with earbuds is inherently unsafe, provided you have the bike handling skills, confidence and awareness to compensate for the partial loss of one of your senses.
I know some riders who just don’t feel right unless they can hear everything around them, so it really boils down to what you’re most comfortable with.