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Friday, April 10, 2015

Cyclists can find reasons when and why to listen to music while riding

Cyclists can find reasons when to listen to music while riding
By:  Michael Lander

Music can make for an even more enjoyable experience
for some cyclists, especially those who are out on a bike
ride by themselves.

If you look around, it’s almost impossible not to notice it.

It seems like just about everywhere you go you see people with earplugs, earbuds, or headsets on, who appear to have tuned out the rest of the world and who’ve retreated into their own world of music.

In a way, it almost seems like we now live in a time that may put a new twist on what Timothy Leary was talking about when he said we should turn on, tune in, and drop out.

With so many of us plugged into our own music these days, it should really come as little surprise to anyone that there'd be cyclists who'd want to do the very same thing as everyone else.

As unsafe and dangerous as some people might think that it is for cyclists to ride and to listen to their music, it may very well be that cyclists have the support of some researchers and the law to back them up as to why they can and should be able to do it.

Contrary to what many people might think, with the exception of a handful of states around the country, it is completely legal for a cyclist to have a set of earplugs or earbuds in, or to have a headset on while they are riding their bike.  Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas are among the states that allow it.

Cyclists are just one of many, that includes runners and walkers,
who like to be outside, getting some exercise, and who want to
do all that while listening to the music that they love.
This is not to say that just because you legally can do something, that it necessarily means that you should.  The law can’t always protect us from everything, including ourselves, nor can it do that when we demonstrate any lack of common sense or good judgment on our part.

In all fairness to cyclists, though, it must be said that they aren’t the only ones around the streets listening to music.  It is not uncommon, for instance, to see people walking or running who are often doing the very same thing themselves, not to mention those who are in cars, trucks, and on motorcycles. 

In some cases, the only difference between the cyclist and the motorist is that the motorist may also be talking on a cell phone and/or jamming to some music without necessarily having something stuck in one or both of their ears as they are driving down the road.

Currently, there seems to be very little evidence that definitively proves that listening to music while cycling actually increases the risk of harming oneself any more than it would be for those who are walking or running on or near the road.  The real danger, though, may come from certain situations or settings, when a cyclist really needs to be able to hear what is happening around them. 

It is an especially bad idea to wear earplugs, earbuds or headsets whenever you are riding with other cyclists on a group bike ride or when you are on an extremely congested and busy city street.

Most cyclists tend to avoid using earplugs, earbuds, or headsets while on
group rides since it can make it difficult to hear other cyclists as they try
to communicate and worn one another of actions that they may be taking
or potential hazards that they may come up to.

When riding with other cyclists, it’s always very important to be able to hear what they are saying and what hazards that they might be trying to warn you about.  It is for this reason that cycling event organizers routinely discourage the use of anything that might prevent you from hearing other cyclists who may be around you. 

Cyclists, or anyone else for that matter, should never listen to their music at a level that prevents them from hearing what is happening around them. This is as important on the bike and pedestrian trails as it is on the city streets.

Permanent hearing loss can occur at a sustained level of 85 decibels and cyclists can really get into trouble whenever they attempt to drown out the noise around them by turning up the music even louder.  Repeatedly doing this can result in permanent hearing loss. 

Instead of risking the chance of hearing loss, or being oblivious to the sounds around them, cyclists do have a few alternative solutions that are well-worth considering. 

One of the first options you can try is to leave one earplug/earbud in and taking the other one out, (preferably the one in your left ear since it’s in the direction of the road), or you can try turning the music all the way up and putting the earplug or earbuds around your neck. 

You can also try installing portable speakers or you might want to look into a set of
headphones that are specially designed specifically for cyclists and their safety in mind. 

Even though some people might see some risks of listening to music
while riding on the city streets, cyclists need to be just as cautious
and careful, if not more, when they are on bike trails since there are
many runners, walkers, and other cyclists sharing the same small
area with one another.

Either way that you go, any one of these options should enable you to listen to your music while helping to minimize some of the risks that might come with trying to listen to your music while riding.

For those opposed to cyclists listening to any music at all, Josh Levin, in his article “
Not Right in the Head – Listen up, cyclists:  Riding with headphones is incredibly dumb,” offers some of his thoughts as to why he thinks that cyclists should not ride with anything at all in or over their ears.

Coming to the defense of cyclists who do want to listen to music while they’re riding is Sociologist, Dr. Katrina Jungnickel, from the University of London, and Dr. Rachel Aldred from the Planning and Transport School of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster. 

In their research, “Cycling sensory strategies:  How cyclists mediate their exposure to the urban environment,” they found that “in contrast to media representations of the ‘iPod zombie cyclist’ who (is) plugged into a mobile audio device, (who) lumbers insensitively and dangerously through the urban landscape,” that the cyclist actually uses the music as a way to comfortably adapt and cope with the environment around them. 

Jungnickel and Aldred concluded that their research found that “cyclists are just as consciously aware, if not more, of their sensory engagement as other transport users and they engage in sensory strategies that manage their exposure to it.”

As nice as it can be just to ride and listen to some of the sounds around you, or to be left to your own thoughts, music can make a ride so much more enjoyable when you are riding all alone. 

In spite of what people might think, there is little evidence to
suggest that, in most instances, there is a significant risk or
danger for cyclists who like to listen to their music verses
those who don't.

Music can be smoothing, inspiring and uplifting and it can help to motivate you on a long and difficult bike ride.  Sometimes, it can even help to take your mind off of just being tired or sore, to focus more on the cool rhythm and beat, lyrics, or the melody of the music and it can even
boost your overall well-being.

With the right music, coupled with the enjoyable experience of a bike ride, it can be a surefire way to increase your serotonin and dopamine levels, and when you combine this with the surging levels of endorphins that come from a strenuous physical activity like a bike ride, it can really make for a potent recipe or cocktail that can help you find your proverbial happy place.

For all the arguments raised against having music playing on a bike ride, there does seem to be equally compelling and legitimate reasons why, for the most part, it might not be such a terrible thing.

The bottom line is that each and every cyclist needs to know where they will be riding and whether or not they will be riding alone or with others before deciding if they should pull the earplugs, earbuds, headsets out and ride.

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