Is it safe to listen to music while cycling if it’s playing through your face?A Royal College of Art graduate has designed headphones that deliver sound via your cheekbones, leaving your ears free to hear what’s going on around you
There are two types of cyclist: those who warn against wearing headphones on the road, and those who say, “WHAT? Sorry, CAN’T HEAR YOU.” The risks of headphone-wearing are apparently self-evident, especially on Britain’s hostile streets, where cycling fatalities still occur with tragic regularity (at least 56 so far this year). Hearing what’s going on around you is vital, says the anti-headphone camp, whose members include Boris Johnson – he declared the habit “absolutely nuts” a few years ago – and London’s Metropolitan police, which advised against headphones when it stopped cyclists as part of its 2013 safety campaign, Operation Safeway. Wearing headphones while cycling is not illegal in the UK, but, in a BBC poll last year, 90% of respondents were in favour of banning it, although 16% admitted to having done it themselves.
Ah, but there’s barely any evidence that headphone-wearing puts cyclists at risk, says the pro camp. Cycling charity CTC found that just four out of 440 cyclists killed over four years were wearing headphones. Besides, why put up with the din of traffic on your commute every day when you could be enjoying, say, Hot Chip’s 2007 remixes of Kraftwerk’s Tour de France Soundtracks?
The problem is not cyclists, the pro-headphoners say, it’s motorists – who think nothing of blaring music in their own vehicles, when they’re not using their mobile phones or eating their breakfast behind the wheel – and pedestrians wearing headphones, who regularly step out in front of cyclists.
But help is at hand, or rather ear: thanks to a new headphone concept aimed specifically at cyclists. Called Safe & Sound, it delivers music not to your ears, but to your cheekbones, which transmit the vibrations straight to your inner ear, leaving the outer ear free to hear traffic. So-called bone-conduction headphones have been on the market for several years, but Safe & Sound, designed by recent Royal College of Art graduate Gemma Roper, are the first designed specifically for cyclists. They attach to the helmet strap, so you don’t get tangled up.
In the meantime, many cyclists have found their own low-tech compromises, such as putting one earphone in and leaving the other out, or wearing headphones with nothing playing through them simply to reduce the noise, or only listening to spoken-word audio rather than music. None of these solutions is ideal. Just last week, while driving my car (I also cycle, so it’s OK), I saw a friend cycling by. I called out and even beeped my horn, but it was only when he sailed by, oblivious, that I saw he was wearing headphones. “Sorry. Didn’t hear you,” he said when I mentioned it later. “I was listening to the Tour de France.”
From: The Guardian