The Department for Transport ‘has no plans’ to legislate for the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s mooted headphone ban, saying that would mean deaf people should not cycle either.
A spokesman for the mayor told Local Transport Today (£) that the earphone ban would require legislation.
But the DfT said there was already advice in the Highway Code for both cyclists and driver to avoid distractions, and careless cyclists could be stopped by the police if they had concerns.
At Mayor’s Question Time, Boris said: “It may be that as part of the safer lorry zone we will insist on lorries having an audible ‘I’m turning left, I’m turning left’ function,” he said. “It would also be useful if cyclists could hear that function – that’s why I made the point that I do about things in your ears. I think it is dangerous to have cyclists having headphones on whilst they cycle.”
He added: “It’s entirely reasonable of us to focus on what we can do to make HGVs safer but I think that people would also feel that the conversation was inadequate if we didn’t draw attention to the additional responsibility of cyclists to be sensible and to obey the rules of the road. If you seriously disagree with that then I think you need your head examined.”
The Mayor was involved in an exchange with the Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones, who said the capital was not getting any safer for cyclists.
She criticised the Mayor’s record, saying: “In 2008 when you were first elected on average a cyclist could do over 400,000 cycle trips before being killed or seriously injured. In 2011 three years after your smoothing the traffic flow and changing traffic lights and so on, the average cyclist could only make 364,000 trips before being killed or seriously injured.
“You pretend to be a fan of cycling and stick up for it, but all you do in my opinion is try to terrify people about the state of our roads. Of course there is a risk in cycling. What we are doing is reducing that risk.”
The news that there will not be anti-headphone legislation comes after a Sunday Times poll we reported on this week that found that almost nine in 10 people (89 per cent) thought cyclists should be banned from wearing headphones - more than those who thought cycle helmets should be compulsory (85 per cent).
Meanwhile last week we reported how Transport for London (TfL) is thought to have approached an institution in London to conduct research regarding the effect of wearing headphones on the safety of cyclists.
The Independent quotes an unnamed source as saying: "I know for a fact that a research institution has been approached by TFL to ascertain if wearing headphones has an impact on cyclists' reaction times.
“They need this research because they don't know if it does, there is just some indicative evidence."
The newspaper says that TfL declined to confirm whether it had made such an approach.
The Independent says that there is no evidence that bans on wearing headphones in Quebec or Florida has reduced the number of cyclists killed there.
But it says that research published in 2011 in the journal Transportation Research by academics from the University of Groningen found that "listening to music resulted in reduced visual and auditory perception and reduced speed" and may also reduce the rider’s stability.
The study concluded: "Negative effects are very large when in-earbuds are used. Negative effects of high volume and fast tempo on auditory perception were found.”
However, it added: “No negative effects were found when listening to music using only one earbud."
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.