Focus on the real factors

Bicycle Network is concerned about a warning from Victoria Police that bike riders shouldn't wear headphones while riding because it increases the risk of fatal crashes.

Victoria’s Police Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer is reported as saying that wearing headphones while riding makes it harder for bike riders to know what is going on around them.

A front page report in the Herald Sun said that Police statistics show that 15 deaths of pedestrians and bike riders have been "linked" to headphone use since 2000, however only two of those deaths were bike riders.

It also is unclear whether the link is more than just wearing headphones.

“There is no doubt wearing headphones while riding a bike or walking down the street affects cyclists’ and pedestrians’ auditory, visual and cognitive awareness," said Assistant Commissioner Fryer.

However, this comment is at odds with research conducted by Bicycle Network in 2012 which found that bike riders using headphones at a reasonable volume hear much more outside noise than a car driver, even when that car driver has no music playing.

The research also showed that the bike riders with ear-bud headphones can still hear the warning sounds of other riders.

Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said that it was worrying that bike riders involved in fatal crashes who were wearing headphones are being blamed.

"I’m worried that this could be very upsetting for the families and friends of the riders who’ve been killed. If the police are able to provide concrete evidence that head phones were the cause we’d love to see it."

"It’s well established that in over three quarters of crashes involving a bicycle, the person riding the bike is not at fault. The article could lead people to think it’s just the riders' responsibility and that drivers have no responsibility."

Bicycle Network also recently completed reports into bike rider crashes and fatalities which show that fatal crashes in Victoria have risen since 2012 and that crashes most commonly occur where bike riders and drivers interact.

Almost half of all crashes happen at intersections and the vast majority of all fatal crashes occur in 50km/h – 70km/h speed limit zones.

Mr Richards added that the focus of authorities and decision makers needed to shift to reducing the risk of the on-road environment.

"Our focus should be on improving on-road conditions that keep bike riders and car drivers separate and protected."

"City of Melbourne has recently admitted the vital need for protected bike lanes and now it's time for everyone else to get on board."

While Bicycle Network does not believe riding with headphones in is dangerous, it certainly does not encourage physically using or looking at a device while riding.

Bike riders need to be aware of what is happening all around, which means looking at the road or bike path rather than a screen.

Click here to see Bicycle Network's riding with headphones study

Click here to read a Herald Sun story with Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer's comments