Ask MC

I think I finally landed on what to call these posts. Instead of the Weekly/Daily/Fortnightly question, I’ve decided to go with simply, “Ask MC”. That way, I’m not painting myself into a corner with the irregular timing of the posts. Now, on to Marguerite’s question…

Is it legal to ride a bicycle with earbuds in in California ? When I learned to ride a bike, I recall an officer coming into my second-grade class to inform us all it was illegal to ride our bikes while listening to our walkmans. Now I live and work in an university town which prides itself on being ‘bike friendly,’ but I would rather walk than ride a bike here, just because so many of the residents, especially the students, ride their bikes while listening to ipods and other devices. And unlike the long-dated walkman headphones, I can’t see the earbuds when I come up behind someone. These people can not hear me when I call out “Passing on your right!” or “Look out!” They can’t hear traffic and I’ve seen some related careless behavior which scares the socks off me. Many of these folks have no idea how to ride a bike in the first place, they don’t seem to know they count as vehicular traffic, but their inability to hear just adds an additional layer of scary to it all.

Thank you for your time and attention.



I’m sure I’ve mentioned it a time or two before, but CVC 21200(a) states in part, “Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” I cited this section as more of a reminder than anything else. You’re answer is specifically answered in CVC 27400. CVC 27400 states in part, “A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears.” There are exceptions, but none of them apply to your average, every day cyclist.
I’m sure the legislature had no clue what the hell “earbuds” were when the section was written, but it can still be applied.
Thanks for the question, Marguerite! Hope it helped.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

2 thoughts on “Ask MC

  1. Good question- and in either case "legal" and "safe" are usually far from the same thing. For instance, where I live, a 6 year old can ride in the front seat of a car without a booster seat or anything! Legal? Sure! Safe? Hardly!

  2. The fact that there's a Google ad for 'Z-Buds' right underneath this post just cracks me right up! Thought I ought to mention that.

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