Possible duplicate: Is listening to music dangerous while cycling?

I cycle 12 miles to work (and the same back) of which the first 5 miles are on a cycle path away from the road and the other 7 are on the road. I go very early so see no other cyclists and therefore listen to music on the cycle path. I then take either both or sometimes just one ear out when I hit the road section.

I realise the argument is that any kind of distraction is not a good thing, but in my opinion, as someone new to commuting by bike, when I am cycling, I hold my line, check over my shoulder before moving over to pass parked cars etc, and do everything possible to avoid the chances of an accident.

The main dangers I can foresee are someone not giving me enough room when passing, or someone pulling out from a side street. I am very well lit and I can't see that having headphones on would prevent either of these accidents from happening.

My question is (Ive got there eventually!) has anyone ever had an accident while wearing headphones that could have been avoided if they hadnt had them on, or has anyone had a near miss without headphones that would have been an accident if they had have had headphones on??

Any kind of sensible response or argument from this will help to convince me that headphones are bad news as at the moment i'm not sure that I am actually in any more danger with them on

  • 1
    see bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/623/…
    – Benzo
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 20:08
  • If you can figure out a way to ask this that's more likely to get facts and data instead of opinions and debate, please feel free to edit it and flag it for reopening.
    – freiheit
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 0:13
  • @Benzo: The linked duplicate says: it almost seems wrong to edit and make some of the answers sound off, but FWIW, I was asking in reference to riding places without cars. Parks and such. Vote to reopen! Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 1:18
  • @Paul: Since there is a second argument to close your post: How long do car drivers use radio? And they are sitting in a cage of glass. They hear less, are always surrounded by the noise of their car and are going higher speeds. So silence seems not necessary for driving in general. But as cyclist, i often overtake other cyclists, which turn left without looking back. They behave as if they could hear everything coming from behind. Electric cars will punish such behaviour much more than my 85 kg (+ 10 kg Peugeot Palermo). Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 2:08
  • I would say no one has come up with a specific scenario where headphones have caused an accident - assuming the cyclist is doing everything else correct (well lit, looking over shoulder before moving out etc). The question was clearly asking for facts or examples rather than trying to provoke a discussion!
    – Paul
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 8:27

4 Answers 4


The trouble is, you might be the most sensible, perceptive guy on this earth, with bike handling skills second-to-none.

But you have no idea who the dick in the car is.

As Javier says, play the odds and give yourself the best chance possible.

  • good point both of you - music isnt worth my lfe!
    – Paul
    Commented Feb 13, 2013 at 23:21
  • yeah, if you think about your senses, hearing is going to be the primary sense involved for anything going on behind you. I wouldn't want to lose that.
    – PeteH
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 9:44

I use headphones when I am POSITIVELY ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY sure that no cars are going to be around. I don't feel that is a problem. But only in that situation. As soon as the cars enter into the game, you are risking your life. Don't gamble.

  • When I cycle over streets I know, I encounter cars. Surely without car's I would only be in the pure nature. There can be many unknown things, so I would pull off the headphones only there. Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 1:11

Anecdote: If people haven't had an accident, they've certainly come close. For instance, I've nearly hit several runners and skateboarders with headphones on. In every case, these people were on the side of the road, moving with traffic, at night, with low visibility garments (e.g. all black). They couldn't hear me coming over their music (unlike a car), and I couldn't see them until I was quite close.

Alternative solution: My sister loves to listen to music on her bike. She's stuck an old boom-box style cassette tape player in a basket on the back. Doesn't skip (MP3 would work too I'm sure), easy to hear, but doesn't drown out the sounds of normal traffic.

  • Noise is noise, whether it's in your ear(s), in front or beside you, or behind you. If the noise is too loud for safely operating the vehicle, whether that be a car, bicycle, roller blades, skateboard or whatever type of transportation you're using...that's an accident waiting to happen, not to mention hard on your hearing. I can carry on a conversation with someone while still using the earphones, just as i can when driving my car with the radio on.
    – user4975
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 21:08

I usually wear my radio headphones, ( earbuds ), whenever I ride, no matter if I'm on a bike path or along a roadway. I never have the volume turned up so much that I can't hear a vehicle approaching from the rear. I'll usually see them in the rear-view mirror anyways. I'm always aware of what's going on around me, so the low volume of the radio makes no difference at all of how well I can hear traffic. If you have the volume turned up so high that you can't hear traffic, you're ruining your hearing anyway. In reality, in most states it's illegal to wear headphones while operating a vehicle anyways ( even in one ear only ), but the police likely wouldn't bother you unless you caused an accident while wearing headphones. I've been riding this way for the past 40+ years without an incident or even a close call. Whenever you're on your bicycle, you have to be a very defensive rider anyway! I'm always looking for vehicles in every direction and an escape route at the same time if I ever see a possible "trouble spot" with other traffic. I always figure that a driver may not see me in time if they need to make an evasive manuver for another vehicle. I figure the volume at which I have the radio when I'm riding is much lower than the volume of the radio when I'm driving my vehicle, and there are more distractions to deal with in the vehicle than when on a bicycle. I guess each individual must make their own decision about using a radio when riding.

  • 4
    you just explained your user name ;-)
    – PeteH
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 21:21

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