View Full Version : Legality of headphones

05-25-2006, 06:58 AM
I've seen a number of bicyclists (and a few drivers) wearing headphones, even on the streets. Whether you feel that it is dangerous or not, what is the actual law on the matter? In California (where I learned to drive) it was explicitly stated that it is illegal to wear headphones while driving, and thus, since bikes are vehicles, it would be illegal to wear headphones while biking on the street.

However, I have not been able to find the code in Oregon that states that wearing headphones is illegal. The driver's manual says it's dangerous, but doesn't specify that it's illegal.

So, if I were to decide that wearing headphones at an extremely low volume is just as safe as not wearing them, and I subsequently wear them when I bike to work, can I get ticketed?


05-25-2006, 12:02 PM
I can't state weather or not its legal, but I ride past the Police stables on the riverfront every day, and often ride next to police going to or from the stables and never have been stopped. I wear them every day, but just as a word of advice, make sure you can hear vehicle horns and such.

07-11-2006, 10:18 PM
Though maybe a little unsafe, it isn't illegal to bike while wearing headphones in Oregon.

Jonathan Maus
08-09-2006, 08:20 AM
I think it's the same as cell phone use. I hope someday there's a general law passed that says something to the effect of, "any device that sufficiently distracts the operator of a vehicle (bike, car, etc...) is against the law" or something like that.

you'd think the insurance industry would get behind this.

Matt P.
08-15-2006, 02:59 PM
Not working in the insurance industry, I can't say for sure, but anecdotal evidence suggests the following:

1. If people believe they might get hit, they'll buy insurance
2. If too many people get hit, insurance companies will lose money
3. Any effort to change the status quo in any direction costs money

This would seem to indicate that the insurance industry has a vested interest in accidents being common enough to spur purchase of their product, but does not want to pay out any more than necessary. If we want the insurance industry behind us, we need to convince them that they stand to gain more money making the changes in the law than they'll spend lobbying to do so.

09-01-2006, 10:22 AM
I almost got hit by a car with my headphones on. I recommend turning the music off when you get in a busy area but you still have to be twice as aware in a more quiet area.

09-01-2006, 12:29 PM
Yep, you want to be careful out there and not get lost in your little world.

We had a Willamette University student who was jogging in Salem who got hit by a train that was going through town (I swear I am not making this up).

I love what a little music will do for a workout, but please keep a few brain cells focused on what's going on around you.

09-03-2006, 07:27 PM
Hmmm. The bike-riffic folks from the Portland Office of Transportation who ran the (v. enjoyable & highly recommended, btw) NE neighborhood bike rides this summer told us headphones iss verboten in Portland. But a handlebar-mounted radio is not.


09-04-2006, 07:10 AM
See, I'd be trying to tune the handlebar-mounted radio and rear-end a parked car. At least with headphones one doesn't need to take one's eyes from the road. I'm a klutz though, and the voices in my head are distracting enough, so no music for me on the bike.

09-04-2006, 03:30 PM
PoPo who posted above stating headphones are legal is a Portland Police officer. I'll take his word over ODOT

09-05-2006, 08:05 AM
It was the Portland Office of Transportation, but given that I probably misheard what they said, I'd believe a molicepan over my version.

And RobCat, are you sure it's not the voices in MY head bothering you? Heh.

Simple Nature
09-06-2006, 09:38 PM
I was once busted for wearing headphones in my convertible [actually ended up in the hospital because the cop and I didn't quite see I-2-I]... Don't know why that wouldn't apply on a bike too. Heard a lot of spouting about not being able to hear emergency vehicles [although I heard his load speaker just fine]. So yes, I too would like to know the law part of this as I don't enjoy hospitals.

09-07-2006, 06:43 PM
...And RobCat, are you sure it's not the voices in MY head bothering you? Heh.

:lol: :lol: :lol:

09-08-2006, 01:35 PM
Oregon Drivers Manual page 76:
"The same traffic rules and regulations
apply to both bicyclists and vehicle drivers."

Oregon Drivers Manual page 69:
"It is particularly dangerous to wear headphones while driving."

I can not find anywhere in the ORS where it is actually illegal.

Cascade Bicycle Club does inform riders of the STP that it is illegal in Washington.

Summary: Not illegal but dangerous.

09-08-2006, 03:24 PM
Just a bad idea really... On a bike path is one thing, but on the street at least keep one ear open.

Also, it is specifically illegal in Beaverton:


6.02.205 Earphones. No person shall operate a motor vehicle or
bicycle upon a highway as defined in ORS 481.020 while one or both of
the person's ears are covered or occupied by headphones or earphones.
[BC 6.02.205, added by Ordinance No. 3469, 10/8/85]

Simple Nature
09-08-2006, 10:32 PM
Yep, it was in Beaverton where I was busted, but Murrey Rd is NOT a highway. And it seems ORS 481.020 was repealed.

09-26-2006, 01:44 AM
Oregon Law has a specific definition for the word "highway" different than the common idea of highway we all think of (a busy road that connects cities or states). A "highway" according to Oregon Law is basically any public street--wide, narrow, busy, residential, paved, unpaved--you name it and it's probably a highway.

09-26-2006, 06:54 PM
801.305 “Highway.” “Highway” means every public way, road, street, thoroughfare and place, including bridges, viaducts and other structures within the boundaries of this state, open, used or intended for use of the general public for vehicles or vehicular traffic as a matter of right. [1983 c.338 §51]

10-03-2006, 02:11 PM
Here's an invention for which I've waited all my cycle-commuting years:

A small set of speakers (brand name: Active Tunes) that mount on the handlebars, take three AAA batteries (I got rechargeable ones), and plug into my nano, which I also attach to the handlebars.

I put the nano on shuffle so I never have to fiddle with song selection, and I dial in the volume before I jump on.

It makes my NE Portland-Clackamas hourlong commute so much more enjoyable. I never would wear headphones for safety reasons but with these speakers you can just duck out of sound range and listen for cars at intersections.

The system's kinda homespun: for instance, the extra "security loop" is, uh, a rubber band, but the sound is fine and the price (about $30) is just right.