Crazed cyclists take over roads

Lloyd Alter

The once reputable Times of London says Beware, iPod zombie cyclists are on the rise and the Daily Mail writes Generation of 'cycling iPod zombies' blamed for rise in deaths on the road. And while it is true that more cyclists have been killed this year, whose fault is it? As one commenter at the Times pointed out, "Cyclists get killed by motor vehicles, not by iPods. Why is it the cyclists behaviour that is criticized? "

And why is it that they crap all over cyclists, saying "iPod zombies are a menace. I saw a bus clip one of them the other day in Victoria who was oblivious to anything around him." and "People don't realize how dangerous listening to music is on the roads -- whether pedestrian or cyclist. It takes one of your key senses away. People shouldn't do it. "

Right. But drivers are allowed to seal up windows and crank up the hip hop to deafening levels, talk on cellphones and eat lunch while behind the wheel, and they are talking about cyclists being distracted.

It is all based on absolutely no evidence other than there has been an increase in cycling deaths. No data on headphone use, totally apocryphal, just internet cycling forums "full of heated exchanges between indignant cyclists and seething motorists, railing against the "erratic behaviour" and "breathtaking stupidity" of riders who career through the traffic, sporting the telltale white wires of an iPod."

Fortunately, Peter Walker at the Guardian leaps to cyclists defence, noting another commenter at the Times, "Beware of zombie journalists inventing scare stories to sell newspapers."

Two years ago I thought differently, and would run surveys entitled "should bicyclists use iPods? and posts like Dangers of iPods on Cyclists and Pedestrians. And I would never wear headphones while cycling, and I wear a helmet.

But I have become convinced that blaming cyclists is a complete misdirection. They belong in the road as much as cars do, and deserve to be as comfortable and have the same rights as anyone in a car. Get rid of the 350 decibel thumping tuner cars and that will probably save more lives that taking headphones off cyclists.