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Could a headphone ban keep cyclists safe?

20th November 2013

For example, some believe that these individuals should be prohibited from wearing headphones while cycling. Although many might disagree with this proposal, Boris Johnson appears to have backed the idea.

During an interview with journalists from the BBC, the Mayor of London described cyclists who wear headphones on the roads as being “absolutely nuts” and confirmed that he “would not be against a prohibition or ban” on this behaviour.

However, although it can be argued that these people should take more responsibility for their safety, perhaps other options should be considered as well. Fourteen fatal cycling accidents have so far occurred within London this year – with HGVs reportedly involved in nine of these collisions.

Consequently, some individuals – such as Chris Boardman, winner of a cycling gold medal during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics – believe that implementing certain restrictions on lorry drivers could help cut the number of fatal cycling accidents in the capital.

Commenting on the recent collisions, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) also feels there is “a need for urgent action”. However, the organisation believes that any proposals should be “based on good evidence and well targeted”.

Furthermore, a spokesperson added, “We must avoid knee-jerk reactions and measures that might be counterproductive.”

PACTS probably has the right idea. When a traffic accident occurs, the reasons behind it are often many and complex. Although banning cyclists from wearing headphones might prove beneficial in the long run, were these six riders all listening to music prior to crashing?

The answer to this question might never be revealed, but there were probably several circumstances leading up to their collisions. Therefore, instead of targeting certain groups of road users, perhaps research should be used to investigate these factors and propose methods to prevent further individuals from sustaining harm.

These last two weeks have been bad ones for cycling safety in London, but implementing a thoroughly researched and tested policy could – in theory – dramatically cut the number of cycling accidents in the capital.

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