THE UK’s largest independent road safety charity has called for debate on the dangers of using headphones while cycling, after a survey showed the majority of road users around the world support a ban.
IAM RoadSmart said riding a bike while wearing headphones is “the ultimate distraction” and poses a danger not just to the cyclist but pedestrians and other road users, too. The charity is calling for urgent debate on this important issue while changes to the Highway Code are being considered.
The E-Survey of Road Users’ Attitudes (ESRA) poll of 35,000 people across 32 countries found that two-thirds (65.8%) of respondents support introducing a ban on cyclists wearing headphones.
In the UK an even higher proportion backed the move, with 68.2% in favour, which is similar to the sentiment in Germany (69.8%) and Hungary (69.9%).
Spaniards proved most concerned about using headphones while cycling, with nearly 80% of all road users in the country saying they’d like to see it outlawed, while Finns are least concerned about the issue with only 36% believing a ban would be appropriate.
Cycle-loving Holland and Denmark showed small majorities in favour of new controls, matching the views of those in North America, Asia and Africa.
Women are more in favour of a ban than men, the survey found, and this was true across all of the continents surveyed, ranging from 83% of female road users in Africa to 62% in North America.
Young people are more likely to oppose a ban, with only 53.5% of 18- to 24-year-olds around the world being against the introduction of any controls on wearing headphones or earbuds while riding. That support drops further in Europe, where just just four in ten (44.1%) young people believe a ban would be a good idea.
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.”
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