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Earphone ban is among a raft of changes to transportation law, including those aimed at pedicabs and e-bikes

Cycling with earphones is now illegal in California – even if there’s no music playing in them.

The new state law, which was introduced on January 1 and also applies to drivers, outlaws  the wearing of earphones, with fines for non-compliance as much as $160.

It has been illegal in the state to wear headphones or earplugs while cycling or driving for several years. However, the new law specifies earphones, making it unlawful to wear a “headset covering, earplugs in, or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears, while operating a motor vehicle or a bicycle”.

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Technically it is still legal to wear an earphone in one ear, while those operating construction equipment, or emergency vehicles are exempt, as are hearing aid users.

A similar scheme was proposed for the UK by one disgruntled Lord early last year who had seen other cyclists riding with earphones on his daily commute to Westminster and feared a risk to their safety. However, campaigners at the time contested the effectiveness of such a law, citing a lack of evidence on the risks of earphones and the purported safety benefits of a ban.

The new Californian law is among a raft of changes to laws affecting transport in the state, including restrictions for pedicabs, which are not allowed to travel in excess of 15mph - the restriction has now been extended to four wheeled pedicabs carrying eight or more people. New classifications of e-bikes have also been introduced, allowing them to use the same paths as non-motorised cycles.

A trial use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs), which require a clean breathalise test before the car will start, has been extended to 2017 for those convicted of previous drink driving offenses.