Interacting with people wearing AirPods while running or biking

So do you think the new version they demoed might help (eventually)?

I have found that, in parties and meetings, the AirPod Pro 2 actually enhances my ability to communicate. Specifically, I invoke the Hearing Control Center widget. I leaveBackground Sounds and Live Listen off. Headphone Accommodations is set to Transparency. Transparency mode amplification is truned up to about 45. Balance and Tone are left at middle settings, while Ambient noise reduction is set to 50. When I do this, I find the clarity of almost all voices is increased and the background noise fades to insignificance.

So, if you see a person with AirPods in their ears, they may actually be tuning you in rather than tuning you out.

Note: I find Live Listen makes voices sound artificial.


The get off my lawn vibe is getting very strong.

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It’s the same here at Cal. Several have in fact recently been hit by cyclists or even cars because they weren’t paying attention to their surroundings. UCPD has alerted students several times already that they shouldn’t be heads down in their phones with ears plugged when they’re walking around campus and town.

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As a bicyclist, I find people walking on bike paths who can’t hear me coming downright dangerous. I ring my bell when I come up behind them, and some people thank me for the gentle alert. With people wearing AirPods or absorbed in their phones, I have to warn them vocally and often loudly to avoid hitting them.


As a walker, I find bicyclists who sneak up on me without saying anything downright dangerous. Especially since my dog is attracted to motion and tries to lunge at them. I only wear one AirPod and try to be alert, but bikes can be totally silent and their riders oblivious to walkers. When I do step aside and control my dog on a short leash as they pass, some bicyclists are politely grateful.



As a long time runner for many years who then became a long time biker…I’ve found that courteous behavior is the way to go for both sorts…and clueless folk who walk around with earbuds in both ears so they can’t hear anything are just not being very smart.


Here’s the thing. I was on my eMTB about a week ago, going up a long climb on what I call “double track”, a former road kept clear of trees just in case they need to get equipment up it but otherwise closed to motor vehicles and in appearance just two trails side by side with a lot of low vegetation growing on it. On a switchback section I saw up ahead a guy on a regular MTB, and of course with the e-assist I was going about twice his speed. He was in the left track, so I went into the right track, and called out “on your right”. As is far too typical, he was oblivious to what was going on behind him (I use both a helmet mirror and a radar unit). As happens so, so many times when I warn people up ahead that I’m there, he immediately jerked his bike right, and I had to swerve to avoid him.

So that’s why I don’t usually warn pedestrians or other cyclists when I’m approaching from behind. Better they get startled than run into me. (Yes, walkers/runners will do the same thing. They’ll turn and look and walk/run into your path.) Now I don’t often use the “bicycle facilities” here in Centre County, PA, because they’re so awful, so it doesn’t happen that often, but I do occasionally pass hikers or runners up in the mountains. (And occasionally, on the steepest climbs, they pass me.)

I’ve discovered a couple of things that make it easier to avoid having them dodge into my path.

  1. Alert them when I am much farther back.

  2. I say “bike behind you” rather than left or right…

This combo gives them enough time to turn, look back, and go whichever way they want to go…then I just pass them on the other side.

Alternaticely…if there’s a street opening just ahead (we have a lot of bike lanes here in SW FL) then I just slow down and grab a few seconds of easier pedaling and breath catching and them pass them much wider once we get to the street/store entrance opening.

And fortunately…the bicycling laws here in FL tell you to follow the traffic rules unless common sense/safety dictates otherwise. On a couple of the roads I have to go on the bike lanes are pretty narrow and the speed limit is 60 mph…I feel much safer actually riding on the wrong side of the road against the traffic on those roads because you can see the texting or wandering drivers and bail onto the grass if necessary whereas if they’re behind you then you don’t have that opportunity. Having been off in the grass on the worst of those sections 6 times since Jan 22…riding against the traffic is definitely safer. That particular bad section is included on all my rides as it’s the highway from our development down to the nearest city intersections where I fan out onto various routes. It’s about 3 miles down to that intersection and all of it but about 1/2 mile used to have a separate off road dedicated sidewalk/bike/golf cart lane separated from the road by the grass and signage…just in the past couple of months the sidewalk got extended almost up to our development so it’s only a hundred yards or so from the development exit to the start of the sidewalk…I am much, much happier now.

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One problem with “on your right” or “on your left” warnings is that some of us are not always instantly aware of which side that means. It may take me a few seconds to remind myself that right is the hand I through a ball with, and then I’m okay. I generally ring my bicycle bell when I come up behind people and say “thanks” when I pass them. The bell is gentle and they sometimes thank me in return.


As a former dog walker, I can’t get comfortable with the idea of having anything in my ear that might interfere with keeping the dog or passersby safe. I don’t walk around NYC with headphones on, either. Too many risks.


And even when you get it correct, they may get confused. I almost had to get off my ElliptiGO on a recent ride because the people couldn’t figure out where to go and get their leashed dogs under control.

Road biking you will pass on the left 99% of the time so you just really have to announce yourself.

In the woods or on a bike path I just call out “behind you”. That gives them a chance to move whichever way they need (though it’s super frustrating when they scatter in different directions - once I had a family scatter and leave the 2 year old in the middle of the path). The paved bike paths are the worst with groups of people all chatting - they don’t hear a thing!

If I say on your right/left they will jump the exact way I say. It’s too confusing.


As a runner/walker who occasionally goes on the nearby rail trail, the best warning I ever heard coming from behind was “stay left”.


Very sensible. I wonder how many pedestrians who get hit by bikes, cars, or other vehicles had something in their ears that kept them from hearing the oncoming traffic?

This is exactly why I don’t ride on “bike paths” unless I’m forced to by conditions (closed road, detour, etc.). People remain far more aware of what’s going on around them when they’re walking on a road with automobile traffic (common around here since we don’t have sidewalks out here in the sticks). On the “bike path” (around here, substandard too narrow crap often riddled with driveways; fortunately there aren’t many of them) they think they don’t have to worry about anything so they pay far less attention. In the mountains there are far fewer people, so interactions are rare, even on singletrack trails.

I’m much, much safer on the roads operating legally (right side, obeying signs and lights, etc.) All I have to worry about there is the rare idiot riding the wrong way (illegal in all 50 states and vastly more dangerous for them since no one is looking for them there). With a mirror and radar, I’m aware of what’s behind me.

I’m sure there have been some accidents, but the use of earbuds is generally not mentioned when there is a report about an accident. I see biking with earbuds in as even riskier than walking. There is often quite a bit of ambient traffic noise anyway, and you have to pay attention even without anything isolating you from the environment.

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Most of my riding is along off-road bike trails and on side streets, where traffic noise is minimal, where traffic noise is minimal, and joggers with earbuds don’t seem to hear anything other than their electronics. Fortunately there isn’t a lot of other bike traffic, but there are some poorly designed spots where the trail branches and you can’t see another rider around the bend.

One of the perils around here is nitwit dog walkers who led their dogs loose on or near the bike trail. The city doesn’t enforce the leash law.

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Perhaps in the States but definitely not here in Australia.

I always ring a bell from a distance when approaching people walking the same direction but there is inherit risk in even ringing a bell on a bike path. If they’re wearing Airpods they often won’t hear until the last seconds and, in surprise, they spin around, slightly off balance and sometimes directly into your path.

Where possible, I will ride a wide path around them (even if I’m on my road bile and I need to traverse grass or dirt) and give a little wave as I go by. I ride for fun now so minor inconveniences are just that, if I need to slow down or get off I will.

Actually…here in FL bikers are allowed to violate normal traffic rules if on their view it is safer. Important to me…because before I can get onto a sidewalk/bike/golf cart path on exiting development I have about a half mile of riding on a 5 speed limit highway…and having been off in the grass due to moron drivers 6 times since the beginning of 2022…riding against the traffic…I.e., in the ‘wrong’ direction in the bike lane on the shoulder…is far safer because 6 out of 6 of those idiots would have never been seen by me before I became a hood ornament.

Fortunately…they built more sidewalk and now I only have a couple hundred yards of road before I can get out of traffic.