Listening to music while cycling impairs cyclists’ auditory perception and may decrease their awareness of approaching vehicles. If the impaired auditory perception is not compensated by the cyclist himself or other road users involved, crashes may occur. The first aim of this study was to investigate in real traffic whether teenage cyclists (aged 16-18) compensate for listening to music by increasing their visual performance. Research in real traffic may pose a risk for participants. Although no standard ethical codes exist for road safety research, we took a number of ethical considerations into account to protect participants. Our second aim was to present this study as a case study demonstrating ethical dilemmas related to performing research in real traffic. The third aim was to examine to what extent the applied experimental set-up is suitable to examine bicyclists’ visual behaviour in situations crucial for their safety. Semi-naturalistic data was gathered. Participants’ eye movements were recorded by a head-mounted eye-tracker during two of their regular trips in urban environments. During one of the trips, cyclists were listening to music (music condition); during the other trip they were ‘just’ cycling (the baseline condition). As for cyclists’ visual behaviour, overall results show that it was not affected by listening to music. Descriptive statistics showed that 21–36% of participants increased their visual performance in the music condition, while 43-64% decreased their visual performance while listening to music. Due to ethical considerations, the study was therefore terminated after fourteen cyclists had participated. Potential implications of these results for cycling safety and cycling safety research are discussed. The methodology used in this study did not allow us to investigate cyclists’ behaviour in demanding traffic environment. However, for now, no other research method seems suitable to address this research gap.
A study in real traffic examining glance behaviour of teenage cyclists when listening to music: Results and ethical considerations