The Dope I Passed This Morning

While driving to work this morning, I passed a bicycle commuter.  Life as a bicycle commuter in Northern Virginia is hard.  Its harder when you’re stupid.  The guy I passed was riding a road bike and was fully-decked out in cycling gear.  Very cool.  He was peddling along Minnieville Road – a four lane road JAMMED with rush hour traffic.  There is absolutely no shoulder on this road – just a gutter and a curb.  I wondered how this guy would manage staying upright as the traffic became bumper to bumper at a stoplight.  The answer was simple – he just swerved from the gutter-side of the street between two cars and onto the dashed line seperating two lanes.

And all the while doing this, the guy was wearing earphones.  I didn’t have my camera with me, so I grabbed some stock footage just to jazz up this post, but you get my drift.  He was wearing an iPod holder on his arm in the manner common amongst walkers and joggers.  So while executing dangerous manuevers in rush-hour traffic in limited visibility, our hero was jamming to Lady Gaga, his favorite cycling podcast or Lord-knows-what. 

He’s lucky he didn’t end up like this.

It is generally understood by most cyclists that automobiles are trying to kill them.  Cyclists are extremely disadvantaged in the contest between car and bike, so I can’t imagine why anyone would further disadvantage himself by removing one of his senses. 

iPod has added fuel to the fire by marketing a handlebar mount.  The advert innocently depicts an iPod being used as a GPS, with no headphones attached.  I suspect the actual number of cyclists who use this product SOLELY in this configuration is a number approaching zero.

I read about cyclists who enjoy listening to music while they ride.  As for me, I would prefer to hear what is going on around me.  The roads in Northern Virginia are particularly nasty, but even on the trails, I would like to hear the occassional “Passing on your left.”  Someone may only utter a phrase like, “Excuse me, Sir, but the bridge is out around the bend!” once every 20 years, but when it is said to me I’d like to hear it.

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4 thoughts on “The Dope I Passed This Morning

  1. I agree with you in principal, riding with music is not as safe as riding without them. I’ve ridden with earphones some and I like the older style that don’t fit in your year. I’ve found that as long as the music isn’t too loud I can hear about as good.

    Here is my problem with your assertion though. At what point does hearing a car actually make you safter. If you’re riding along on a road and hear a car coming what are you going to do differnt? The only time I’ve ever really needed to hear on my bike for approaching cars is when I’m in a group and we are riding 2 abreast.

    If you are riding in a group using an ipod is not smart, otherwise I don’t really think it matters.

  2. The problem is where you’re at when you’re in ‘the zone.’ When in a car and jamming you know if you check out you’re protected by the car. If you do it on a bike you’re road kill. When on a bike you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. I’ve tried using my Zen when riding and found I’m not comfortable with not being able to hear anything else but the music. As much as I would love to crank up the tunes on my bike, I agree with Steve and find it more of a hazard. In the end I think it’s a personal preferrence depending on your comfort level.

  3. Pingback: 2010 Wrap Up: Part 3 (The Blog) | There And Back Again – Steve's Cycling Blog

  4. For me, hearing cars is an important part of staying alive, I think. The earlier I hear them, the more I can be prepared for their arrival and not be startled by them appearing “out of nowhere” (I have an active nervous system). But then, I also have a mirror on my bike, so that’s probably a sign that I’m uber-careful…have never been hit, or had an accident, or even fallen yet.
    Why on earth did I just say that?
    Love this blog, by the way–just found it. Love the writing here. Thinking of doing a metric century, maybe Culpeper or the Seagull, this fall.

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