It’s time to debate headphone ban for cyclists

A recent survey revealed that the majority of road users in the UK support banning people from wearing headphones while cycling.

Tuesday, 17th November 2020, 12:30 pm
Wired for sound...but 68.2 per cent of people polled in the UK favoured a ban on cyclists wearing headphones.
Wired for sound...but 68.2 per cent of people polled in the UK favoured a ban on cyclists wearing headphones.

The UK’s largest independent road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, is now calling for an urgent debate on the issue while changes to the Highway Code are being considered.

In the survey, conducted across 32 countries by the E-Survey of Road Users’ Attitudes (ESRA), two-thirds of the 35,000 respondents internationally were in support of introducing a ban on cyclists wearing headphones.

Support was even higher in the UK where 68.2 per cent of people said they were in favour of the ban.

Neil Greig, policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart, said: “It’s clear that the majority of road users are very concerned about distracted cyclists wearing headphones or earbuds while riding.

“These findings were consistent right across the world in this substantial survey.

“Being plugged in to either headphones or earbuds is the ultimate distraction, as it completely shuts you off to your surroundings, creating a potential road safety risk to yourself, pedestrians and other road users around you.

“This is even more critical with the popularity and increasing prevalence of noise-cancelling equipment.

“There are plans to update the Highway Code being discussed as we speak, so now is a great time to have an informed debate about the best way for cyclists to avoid potentially fatal distractions.”

Across Europe, support for the ban on cyclists wearing headphones varied. Spain felt most strongly about the introduction of the policy with nearly 80 per cent of all road users surveyed in that country voting in its favour.

Female road users were more in favour than males of a ban and this was true across all of the continents surveyed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those aged 18 to 24 were most against the introduction of any controls on their personal listening habits and internationally an average of only 53.5 per cent of this age group supported the ban.

In Europe, support among young people was markedly lower at just four in ten of 18 to 24-year-olds believing the ban would be a good idea.