Riding with Headphones: Is it Illegal and What are the Dangerous?

Riding a bike with headphones is an activity that has been highly debated for years on forums. Some people think it’s safe, while others believe it to be dangerous and illegal. After a close encounter with the police, I took a lot of time researching everything about biking with headphones on.

In this article, I will share everything that I found. You can decide at the end if you want to take the risk and ride while wearing your headphones.

As a bike commuter, I’ve ridden with headphones on multiple occasions around my city. Whenever I’ve done so, I never really felt as safe as I do riding without them. But cycling with headphones provided a much better experience when biking through traffic or rush hours.

So it became a habit that I started doing more and more since I could play my favorite songs or listen to podcasts while commuting.

One evening on my way home from work “during peak traffic,” I was happily biking back home with my headphones on. Out of nowhere, a reckless idiot swerved over into the bike lane and knocked me off my bike. Luckily he only hit my rear wheel, which caused me to fall off the bike.

But that’s the best part!

Everything after was a nightmare…

After getting up off the ground, I was furious! So naturally, I got into a heated argument with the driver. A few minutes later, the police arrived on the scene and started questioning everyone who saw the incident.

Long story short…

We both got in trouble with the law. He did for driving recklessly, and I did for riding with headphones on.

With that event happening to me, I started researching to learn more about the laws of riding with headphones.

So let’s get into what I’ve found:

Is it illegal to wear headphones while riding a bike?

Yes, it is illegal in the United States to wear headphones while riding a bicycle. However, there are no laws against it in some states. In my state, Massachusetts, you can bike with one earbud/headphone on. While other states like Ohio, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Louisiana strictly forbid biking with earphones on.

There are some other states with partial restrictions on using headphones. These states include California, Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, and Alaska. There is also New York, Oregon, and Virginia. The last states are Washington and Arizona.

That’s why I got in trouble when I had an accident while using my headphones. The police made it clear that once your bike with headphones/earbuds, you are partially responsible if you get in an accident because it counts as negligence on your part.

When they told me that, I found it unreasonable since there aren’t any particular laws preventing a deaf person from riding a bike.

However, there aren’t any excuses for negligence, and my negligence cost me a new bike. So, before riding with headphones, you should check the laws of your state.

Can you receive a traffic Citation for riding with headphones?

Yes, you run the risk of receiving a citation if you decide to go riding with headphones or earbuds in your ears.

Are there any real disadvantages of riding with headphones?

When you wear headphones, it is harder to hear what is going on around you, especially when you have both ears covered by the headphone. It is important to hear what is going on around you when biking. Biking with headphones makes this difficult and may increase the risk of accidents.

Furthermore, biking with earbuds on can also make it difficult to hear the sirens of emergency vehicles. Or it could even prevent you from hearing someone’s warning to you when you are riding. This puts you and those around you at risk for injury or death.

With these risks in mind, it is important to be careful when biking with headphones.

How to ride safely with headphones/earbuds on?

While there are dangers involved in riding with headphones, you can still use them safely if permitted by the state you reside. Here’s how:

Wear One Headphone/Earbud if Legal

If your state allows partial use of a headphone while cycling, then you should be able to use one side safely. By wearing one side of your headphone, you can still hear the sounds around you, such as traffic and other cyclists. This is a good option for those who only use their headphones for phone calls, listen to music, or podcast while cycling.

Once you’ve reached a familiar route that doesn’t have traffic or pedestrians, then you can use both sides of your headphones. However, keep in mind that you might still be at risk for a citation if the police stop you.

It would be best if you lowered the Volume.

Lowering the volume of your earbuds while riding a bike will help you hear the traffic and other sounds around you. This is a great way to stay safe while biking with earbuds on busy streets or in areas with heavy pedestrian activity. It would help if you did this in addition to wearing only one earbud in states with restrictions on headphones.

As long as your headphones’ volume isn’t too loud, then there won’t be an issue for safety, but if it’s blaring music into your ears when riding, that can lead to the same problem.

Wear/Use Proper Cycling Gear

Riding a bike comes with risks of falling or meeting in an accident at any time. Wearing a helmet, wearing bright clothes, and having lights on can help you stay safe while riding your bike with headphones on.

Avoid Noise Cancelling Headphones

Some headphones and especially earbuds, have a noise-canceling feature that greatly reduces outside noise. These headphones are great when you are in a safe setting enjoying your audio, but it is dangerous once you are on a bike. With these headphones, not even reducing the volume will allow you to hear your surroundings properly.

Know When to Remove Your Headphones

There are times when you might want or need to remove your headphones completely while riding. For example, if you’re biking on a busy street and there’s traffic in front of you, then it is important that you can hear everything going on around you.

Use Bone Conduction Headphones

Bones conduction headphones work by transmitting vibrations to your skull. These headphones are designed for cyclists and can be used with or without a helmet, and aren’t very expensive.

What are some benefits of cycling with headphones?

Riding with headphones on is beneficial because it reduces boredom and provides motivation during those long commutes. When biking with headphones, you can also protect your ears from the winter weather if they are bulky enough.

If you like listening to podcasts or get tonnes of phone calls then using headphones would allow you to do it all on the go.

The Bottom Line: Is Riding with Headphones Safe?

As you can see, the facts are mixed about whether it’s safe to ride your bike while listening to music. Some sources say that headphones may not be as dangerous as we think if they’re set at a reasonable volume and riders still pay attention to their surroundings.

However, I would still recommend checking with your state laws before riding with earbuds or headphones because even though some states allow this practice, others do not. And remember that you might still be fined for negligence if you get in an accident, so make sure to follow my tips above!