There are numerous articles flying around about earbud use by cyclists; I’m noticing more and more cyclists using them on the roads. Let me first state, I am categorically against the use of anything that might distract you in any way from the dangers presented by motorists and other cyclists. We need 100% of our faculties to avoid an injury, or worse. Wearing my attorney hat for a moment, any defense attorney will relish attacking you as a cycling victim of a car, based on your having earbuds. Even the safest earbuds won’t be understood by a jury.
Let me first confirm that in Florida, it is illegal to wear earbuds in both ears. So at the very least, you should never have more than one in your ears, never two.
When passing a cyclist with earbuds in both ears, give an extra wide berth to make the pass. Even yelling “on your left” is not likely to be heard; same goes with approaching a pedestrian.
I’m aware of bone conduction headphones, and aware of the argument they may be much safer, because they rest on the bone outside and to the side of your ear, not within your ear. It is my opinion that until the Florida Legislature addresses this type, it will still be illegal to use them in both ears.
We already know of friends, sometimes loved ones, severely injured by motor vehicles: why would you not want every opportunity to hear what’s going on around you? And even when riding on a trail, you still make it less likely to hear another cyclist coming. Just common sense, folks. None of us wants to be a statistic. Tuning out your senses by tuning in music while on your bike is asking for trouble.
If you insist on using some form of earbud, check out the Bluetooth wireless bone conduction headphones on the market. At least this design doesn’t block sound from entering your ear; although, it will still dilute it to the point of adding another level of danger to your riding.
Finally, when on a group ride, please, please remove them so you can hear others, and others can talk to you. It’s about safety first. Not just your safety, but the safety of everyone around you. Be safe out there.