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The Spin on Wearing Headphones While Cycling

In recent years, many states have updated their laws to address cyclist safety, restricting or prohibiting the use of headphones and earphones while cycling. Such states classify this act as “distracted driving,” and it’s subject to the same penalties as motor vehicle violations.

NY, CA, MD, DE, and VA allow the use of earphones while cycling, but restrict the use of earphones to one ear. Others states, like Florida and Rhode Island have prohibited the use of any listening device while cycling, with hearing aids as the only exception. To this date, all states other than those previously listed have no such restrictions.

As expected, these regulations have reignited an ongoing debate between cyclists and policymakers, and have even forced more states to review their distracted driver laws. While no cyclist wants to be prohibited from enjoying music while they ride, safety for pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists is the number one reason for such policies.

The dangers of using both earphones

The call for prohibiting the use of earphones while cycling has also come from cyclists themselves, many of whom understand the dangers of riding without full hearing. A 2011 study showed that using both earphones to listen to music while cycling actually increases the risk of an accident. In addition to the need to hear approaching vehicles, cyclists need to be able to hear the opening and closing of car doors, pedestrians, and even other cyclists. To ice the cake, cyclist Neil Bezdek mentions in his blog that cyclists need to be able to hear outside sounds while cycling in order to “monitor the smooth function of (their) bicycles.” Otherwise, the clicking and grinding of malfunctioning gears will fall on deaf ears, leading to gear damage, and potentially an accident.

In another study, researchers at the University of Maryland reviewed 116 cycling accidents in which the cyclist was wearing headphones, and found that 70% of those accidents lead to fatalities. The numbers here are awfully difficult to ignore.

Is there a solution?

Ultimately, the decision to wear earphones while cycling is yours, but a company named Far End Gear has sought to address this issue and help provide a safer solution with their XDU Single Earphone. Here’s how it works: audio engineers customize sound positions to create two unique channels of music: right and left. Listening to only one of these two channels however, leaves the listener with only part of the sound. Unlike listening with only half of a stereo set, XDU is designed to combine both channels of audio through one single earbud, letting you enjoy a richer listening experience while making cycling (or even running) safer for you and everyone else on the road.

Jeff Sheerin

By Jeff Sheerin

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