Earbuds: Leave Them at Home for Your Safety, But, If You Insist…

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.

Coming Bicycle Changes for the Roads of St. Petersburg

I, along with many of my fellow St. Pete Bike Club members, had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by Mr. Lucas Cruse, with the City’s Transportation and Parking Management Department, who specializes in bicycle and pedestrian routes in St. Petersburg. Lucas is an engaging speaker who fielded all questions asked, even some not within his area of responsibility, with humor and intelligence.

Sharrows, the painted image of a bicycle with double arrows above the bike in the direction of travel, were a hot topic, especially with the coming changes to our east-west main traffic routes: First Avenues North and South, and Central Avenue.

Correctly painted sharrows should be squarely in the middle of the lane of traffic. Check out Central Avenue west of 16th Street, and you will notice the location; the intent of which is to confirm bicycles have the right to “take the road” in the middle of the lane, where there’s not enough room to ride to the right side and allow a motor vehicle to pass.

The concept of bicycle safety and shared lane markings will require extensive education of everyone using the roads, including the increasing use of informational signs with a bicycle image and the words “may use full lane.” You can see such signs on Central Avenue as well.

I encourage all area cyclists to make it their mission to be informed about bicycle safety, to meet Lucas Cruse when possible, and to be willing to voice your opinion about changes and suggestions that may allow all of us to be on our roads in a safer environment.

You can find more information on bicycle safety by going to www.stpete.org/transportation. There are periodic postings of cycling info including the progress of local bike trails, changes in traffic patterns, and other useful information for us cyclists.

Be safe out there.