Fri 21 Jul, 2023 General

Can You Bike With Headphones in NYC?

It’s illegal to ride a bicycle with headphones in New York City.

In fact, it’s illegal in all of New York State.

It makes sense why such a law exists, especially in New York City. If you are riding a bike while wearing headphones in both ears, you may not be able to hear other vehicles honking at you. You might not hear pedestrians warning you about something. You might not hear a car, motorcycle, or other cyclist approaching you, and you could make a turn that is dangerous to you or others.

Although the law is sensible, many people don’t know it exists. That said, the statute has certain elements that must be established for you to be guilty of the offense.

So, let’s look at the statute.

New York’s Biking with Headphones Law

The specific statute that prohibits biking with headphones is Vehicle and Traffic Law § 375(24-a). It also prohibits driving a motor vehcile while wearing headphones. The statute says:

It shall be unlawful to operate upon any public highway in this state a motor vehicle, limited use automobile, limited use motorcycle or bicycle while the operator is wearing more than one earphone attached to a radio, tape player or other audio device.

As you can see, several things must occur for you to be guilty of Vehicle and Traffic Law § 375(24-a).

First, the statute only prohibits operation on a public highway. Vehicle and Traffic Law § 134 defines “public highway” as any highway, road, street, avenue, alley, public place, public driveway or any other public roadway. That definition is very broad, but situations could exist where you were not riding your bike on a “public highway” and therefore not guilty of the offense.

Second, you must be wearing “more than one earphone” to be guilty of the offense. So, if you have an earbud in only one ear, you are not guilty.

Third, your earphones must be attached to a radio, tape player, or other audio device. Many earbuds today are connected to audio devices (including a smartphone) via Bluetooth. In that situation, the earphone is arguably “connected to an audio device,” even though it is not physically connected. However, exceptions could exist. For instance, your earbuds could have their battery drained, and you were wearing them only to slightly muffle the loud city sounds. If that were the case, your earbuds were not connected to an audio device, and therefore you are not guilty of the offense. Further, if you were wearing noise cancelling headphones that were not connected to an audio device, then you would not be guilty.

What To Do If You Receive a Ticket

If the police stopped you in NYC for riding a bike while wearing headphones, they probably gave you a pink summons. When you receive a summons, you typically have to go to 1 Centre Street or Midtown Community Court to face the charge. Luckily, Vehicle and Traffic Law § 375(24-a) is a violation, not a crime, so you don’t need to worry about getting a criminal record. However, naturally you want to avoid having any sort of record related to breaking traffic laws.

If the police knocked you off your bike and you were injured, you might have strong claims against the police, even if you violated the law by wearing headphones while biking.

An experienced lawyer can appear in court with you in effort to convince the judge to completely drop the charges. If you are charged for riding a bicycle while wearing headphones, contact Cody Warner, P.C. to discuss your case. He can handle your case to explore every angle to get it dismissed.