Michael Wharton There Is Always A Theory: politics, anarchy, religion, atheism and science. now with poetry!

19Aug/095

Cyclists Cycling Wearing Earphones/Headphones: Bad Idea

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Headphones & Earphones On A Bike - Is It A Distraction?

As somebody who very occaisionally will take his bicycle out for a spin, and only on cycle lanes, I can honestly say I have never even contemplated the idea of listening to music whilst cycling. For starters, when listening to music I can't help but move some part of my body along to the rhythm of the beat. This is a very Bad Idea when urban cycling, which requires fast changes in tempo all the time. If I was listening to music I would be slower to react to a change in the speed of what was going on around me.

The other downside is that, essentially, you can't hear very much of what's going on around you on the road. This is obviously very dangerous considering how quiet cars are getting these days, and they will practically be silent assassins when they are all electric cars. As much as you should be looking around you at all times on a bike, you should also be listening. Most times a change in revs in the cars around you can be a great indicator that they are about to do something to endanger your life.

Is Cycling With Headphone/Earphones On Dangerous?

Here is a great example of the kind of accident that can happen due to this incredibly Bad Idea. I have seen so many people doing this on a regular basis, I'm surprised that there haven't been more accidents. Obviously, there have been more than just this one, they just don't all get reported, probably because the embarrassed cyclist doesn't want people to think of them as the fool they are.

Cyclists also seem to find it hard to understand what a red light means, I have seen so many near misses out of the bus window at traffic lights. A cyclist will come steaming past us (Red Light Jumping or RLJ) as we roll to a stop, and nearly get side-swiped by a car coming towards the lights from the left as they change. Combinations of two or more bad road habits are all it takes to guarantee a road traffic incident.

The worst example of stupidity I have seen recently on this subject has to be when I saw a cyclist on a road coming towards me in full proffessional gear, pointy helmet, shorts and all. Despite all of his expensive stretched latex and nylon strapping, he was using both hands completely off the handlebars to send a text message as he stared intently at the screen of his expensive looking phone. He was also wearing earphones, at first I thought he was changing tracks but he clearly had a separate mp3 player hooked up to his headgear.

Can Cyclist Listen To Music Whilst Cycling In Safety?

With products like the Soundwalk Audio MP3 Cycling Speaker Vest, or Slipstreamz Cycling Earwear for Headphones out there I'm not sure if this Bad Idea is going to end without government intervention. These products are trying to market themselves as safety devices, as in you won't have to wear earphones to listen to your music. You don't have to listen to your music on your bike in the first place surely, music is distracting no matter how it is blasted at your ears.

So dear reader I leave it up to you to spread the word to the people who are still putting their lives, and the lives of innocent others, in danger. Proclaim (loudly, earphones/headphones remember!) to them that it is indeed a "Bad Idea!", with optional mime of taking off a pair of headphones.

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  1. In middle school I had a friend who was ticketed for riding his bike home from school with headphones on. At the time we thought it was dumb, but I realize that no, you shouldn’t ride a bike with headphones on. Listening to the sounds around you is almost as important as seeing.

  2. Only wearing one earpiece let’s you listen and hear. I’ve seen people do dumber things (2 up riding on a busy 2 lane street).

  3. There are obviously dumber things to do on a bike, but none so quite widespread as this. As for having only one earpiece in, that really is half as distracting. Half as distracting is still a Bad Idea on a bike.

  4. Bad Idea. What about driving inside a half ton four wheeled, 2 metre wide, polluting hunk of metal surrounded by sound-deadening glass, listening to a loud radio/mobile phone, with the heating on hot-n-sleepy mode while travelling at 30+mph within feet of pedestrians and cyclists.
    What did you do Grandad while they polluted the world? Why, I stopped those nasty cyclists’ headphone habits my boy! Oh thank you Grandad, cough, cough…

  5. It’s difficult to connect Global Warming and road pollution to this particular example of social Darwinism, but I think you did so very eloquently. People who drive gas guzzling SUV’s and 4×4’s (I still don’t understand how a four wheel drive vehicle is referred to as a 4×4 or four by four! That’s 16 surely!) are entirely aware of the negative environmental impact they have. They just don’t care.

    I could write a well thought out blog on my opinions about those inconsiderate polluters, I could start a Facebook group in fact, but it’s bindun (been done to death). I like pointing out the Bad Ideas that people don’t even think twice about, but definitely should. I like pointing out the Bad Ideas that people think are Good.


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