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Maryland Startup Disrupts D.C.'s Latest Bicycle Law Banning Headphones

Published February 22, 2019

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Washington D.C., (BRAIN) — The D.C. municipality recently announced a new law that will fine bicyclists $50 for wearing headphones. The law is designed to reduce the number of traffic accidents that happen with distracted bicyclists who can't hear oncoming traffic. A local tech startup, Conduit Sports, created an innovative headphone designed specifically for bicyclists to hear their music, and not get run over, because the headphones enable their situational awareness.

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Bicyclists and pedestrians wearing normal, over-ear headphones while riding are prone to accidents because their headphones block the surrounding noises. It's a problem that over-ear earphones, headphones, and earplugs have.

Over-ear means the headphones go in or over the ears, and by blocking the ear canal, they block outside noises. Conduit Sports tackled this problem by making off-ear headphones, which don't go in or over your ears. This enables the wearer's situational awareness, giving the wearer the ability to hear incoming danger.

According to the journal, Injury Prevention, accidents involving headphones and pedestrians tripled over a six year period. There are no formal studies made regarding bicyclists, but there are many documented and televised incidents involving bicyclists, headphones, and accidents that result in injury or death. One incident was broadly televised, when an investment banker wearing headphones on a bicycle in NYC, was plowed by a bus on September 2018.

The AAA maintains a list of states and municipalities that ban driving with headphones. Some of them, including D.C., ban them for bicyclists as well.

"Situational awareness - sensing your environment is critical to bicycle safety." Said David Nghiem, the COO at Conduit, who is also a daily bicycle commuter in Washington D.C.

"I wear off-ear headphones all the time because I'm listening to my audio books, and I don't want to get run down by reckless drivers. I can hear my books and the impending roar of an engine behind me, which lets me get out of the way." Said Nghiem.

The headphones work via bone-conduction technology, which passes the sound through the bone to the inner ear. This bypasses the eardrum, and frees the ear canal to hear the surrounding noises.

"This new ban by the D.C. government is a problem that we designed these headphones specifically to address." Said Nghiem.

The City Bikes chain of bike shops in the D.C. metro area carries the Conduit Motion. "Our customers use them so they can maintain safety while riding." Said Kyle Waller, the City Bikes Manager.

Conduit Sports is a startup company based in Bethesda, MD. For more information, go online: conduitsports.com. 

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