It’s time for a nice morning bike ride around San Diego. You throw on your shorts and a tank top, roll your bike out to the street, put on a helmet and get on. Right before you pedal off, you put your headphones over your ears and bring up your favorite podcast or playlist. A good ride is that much better when you have something to listen to. Right?
This is very common. Everyone who has ridden a bike has probably done it at one point or another. But that does not mean it’s safe.
The problem is that listening to something on your headphones cuts you off from the world around you. You don’t hear another cyclist coming up to pass. You don’t hear a car rev its engine to overtake your bike on the side of the street. You don’t hear anyone shout a warning when a driver who turns through a flashing red light heads straight toward your bike.
Awareness is crucial if you’re going to avoid getting involved in an accident. For that, you need to avoid anything distracting that takes your mind off of what’s happening around you, and you need to be able to hear clearly. Headphones hinder that on both ends.
If you’re reading this and thinking that you don’t care and you just want to listen to music, you’re not alone. Many people do, and that’s why they ride with headphones. That doesn’t change the risk, though. It just means a lot of people accept the risk because they enjoy the activity.
There are possible solutions that can make you safer. What about getting a waterproof wireless speaker and mounting it on the back of the bike or on the handlebars? If you do that, you can still hear the music, but you face less distraction and you can still hear cars, trucks, dogs, pedestrians and other cyclists.
Or, what about riding without only one ear covered? Try using earbuds instead of headphones and just put in one at a time. Again, it gives you some music without totally disconnecting you from the world around you.
Your desire to listen and ride is valid. Maybe it’s relaxing. Maybe it pumps you up. “Music is like a legal performance-enhancing drug for athletes,” one doctor noted. Maybe that’s what you’re after. That’s a valid reason, as is simply avoiding boredom or getting two things done at once. Just make sure you know how to ride safely, and make that your priority.
After an accident
If you do get hit by a car and you suffer serious injuries, with or without headphones, you must know what legal options you have to seek compensation.