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Should you wear headphones on your bike?

When you bought your new iPhone, you grabbed a pair of Bluetooth headphones to go along with it. The new phone didn't have the same 3.5mm headphone jack as your older phone, taken off in favor of the Lightning port. You didn't feel like using an adaptor, but it was more than that. The wireless headphones were even more convenient for one activity that you love: riding your bike.

After all, without the dangling cords, there's no chance of them getting caught up in the bike or your body while you ride. You won't hook them on anything riding on the trails. Wireless headphones finally give you the freedom to ride and listen to music without thinking or worrying about anything else.

Perfect, right? Maybe not. There are still some serious risks that you should consider.

Audio distraction

The problem is that whatever you listen to is a serious distraction while you're on your bike. Maybe you like podcasts about true crime or rock climbing. Maybe you like jazz music or punk rock or indie playlists on Spotify. Maybe you just want to listen to Ted Talks and educational content.

It doesn't matter. When you're listening to anything, it poses a potential safety risk. You do not hear things like:

  • Car doors opening on the side of the street
  • Horns honking at you as you cross the road
  • Pedestrians yelling out a warning
  • Dogs barking as you get near their yards
  • Engines revving as cars turn or accelerate
  • Sirens blaring from police cars, ambulances and firetrucks -- all of which may violate common safety laws by driving through stop signs or red lights in an emergency
  • Problems emerging with your bike itself, such as a chain that sticks or a nut that rattles as it gets loose

Moreover, music is a mental distraction. To some degree, even when you're looking at the road, you're still thinking about whatever you're listening to. It isolates you. It guides your thoughts. It can make you zone out. You may not even fully focus on a potentially dangerous situation unfolding right in your line of sight. These are a lot of the same issues that runners face when they listen to music while out for a jog.

Yes, having your new headphones on may make riding the bike more enjoyable, but do you really want that if it compromises your safety?

Your rights

All that said, it's not illegal to listen to music on your bike. If a driver honks their horn and tries to run a stop sign, it's not your fault that they broke the law and hit you just because you didn't hear the horn. Make sure you know your legal rights if you get injured.

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