An article by Melena Ryzik in today’s New York Times, “Turn on (MP3s), Tune In and Ride,” presents the concept of expanding the “communal understanding about the pleasures of navigating the urban landscape” by having a “group bike ride with a shared route and a common soundtrack. . . . Riders equipped with MP3 players set off from the same point, pushing “play” simultaneously.”
Regular readers know that I am a biking aficionado. I will tell you, in no uncertain terms, that a bike rider with earphones is oblivious to the sounds of the road and is a hazard to himself and to others. It is hard to imagine a more dangerous way to ride, except for riding blindfolded.
I have presented, in other posts, data on the dangers of driving while on a cellphone. The neurological issue behind that danger is that human beings are not really that good at multi-tasking. I am not contending that such is the issue here. The issue here is that you simply do not hear things in the ambient environment when you are wearing earplugs.
While biking, I have approached people on the road and have called out the expected, “On your left,” as I prepare to pass them. People listening to music do not hear me. Then, as I pass, many of them swerve from the surprise. When I see those earbuds, I give extra berth because I know they might swerve into me. But sometimes, they swerve towards the curb where there can be road grates or other hazards. I have passed couples riding and listening together, who have almost collided with each other as I passed them.
Ok, so my voice is not very loud, but I have also witnessed bike riders who do not hear approaching trucks and buses as they listen to their iPods.
I am not talking here of people who blast the music at high volumes, like the ones you can hear across the aisle in a subway car. I am talking about normal music volumes.
So, please ride your bike with both ears open. Listen to music in another setting.