Coffee Talk Tuesday - Wearing headphones, is it a matter of safety or resentment?

Yesterday a friend posted the question commonly deputed on Facebook, "Ok, fellow mountain bikers please chime in. What's your opinion of riding with earphones on the trail?" There were many response, why you should go unplugged or just one ear or full symphony. But is the question really just about to ride with headphones or not? I say no, maybe it's about wanting to be alone and not in a pack, with friends, or have some strange guy come up and start chatting with you about who knows what. How many times have you seen some cyclists out riding together and they all have headphones on? Never unless they are a pro team and their all interconnected like the Borg. I think sometimes riders go plugged in on the bike to "check out" from the world. No talking, no listening, just hypnotic pedaling and music… or maybe no music, maybe they are just in and not on, just as a sign to keep people away… like repellent. Cycling can be a very social activity and also one that attracts introverts. Tell me how often you see another rider on a climb totally plugged in and you think of them as a"bubble rider", one who wishes to thinks they are all alone on the climb.

Do we (the unplugged cyclist) feel offended that this cyclist doesn't want to be social in an activity we consider to be social? Most of the comments on his Facebook page were in opposition of wearing headphones but why do we care if a rider is plugged in or not? Yes there are safety issues of being plugged in but are those safety concerns warrant of this must opposition… or is it resentment. I don't hear to many cyclists who DO wear headphones complaining about those who don't…. I'm not sure if I'm right here but I do think I'm on to something, what's your take?

News Item: 


Consider the following:

Consider the following:

§ 42-4-1411. Use of earphones while driving

(1)(a) No person shall operate a motor vehicle while wearing earphones.

(b) For purposes of this subsection (1), “earphones” includes any headset, radio, tape player, or other similar device which provides the listener with radio programs, music, or other recorded information through a device attached to the head and which covers all of or a portion of the ears. “Earphones” does not include speakers or other listening devices which are built into protective headgear.

(2) Any person who violates this section commits a class B traffic infraction.

§ 42-1-102. Definitions

As used in articles 1 to 4 of this title, unless the context otherwise requires:

(58) “Motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle that is designed primarily for travel on the public highways and that is generally and commonly used to transport persons and property over the public highways or a low-speed electric vehicle; except that the term does not include low-power scooters, wheelchairs, or vehicles moved solely by human power.

By virtue of the definition a cyclist is not a motor vehicle and therefore the statute prohibiting earphones could not apply to cyclists .... however I recently appeared in a Denver Court Courtroom in which the Denver City Attorney argued that CRS 42-4-1412 (which makes all rights and duties applicable to motorists, also applicable to cyclists) makes the earphone prohibition applicable to cyclists too.

Whether you choose to wear them or not, now you know what the law says.

Come back to the topic

It's not about why YOU WOULD NOT WEAR HEADHONES but why do we dislike those who do it. I'm aware there are safety reasons but they are no more a safety threat to my riding as the person flying down the canyons while I am riding up... but we don't here much of an out cry from cyclists complaining about cyclists and their descending speeds on climbs.

And cyclists who do wear headphones, you don't have to justify why you do it. You're not being judged here.. that debate will continue on like the helmet one.

my .02

I think the main issue here on why people get so worked up about others wearing headphones on the bike is one that this is a perceived control issue. People tend to have strong opinions on things they see as moral failings like "failure to follow rules" and "poor manners". We judge others through this lens either because we feel it's something we can control (sadly you can't control other people, only your own reactions to them) or because we feel that we are suffering from some lack of agency elsewhere in our lives. We do it to validate ourselves for being "good citizens", or simply because we feel petty in the moment and project our own irritation from [$RANDOM_STRESSORS] onto an "easy" target.

I've certainly been there, and I ultimately discovered that being a sanctimonious judgmental jerk does absolutely nothing to fix the situation, and it only serves to get me even more wound up and neurotic and pissy. So you know what? I'm over it. I give the whole situation a resounding "meh", and go on with my day. Sure, I'd be thrilled not to see so many kids wearing cans on the bike path, but seriously, what good is hassling them about it going to do? About as much as arguing with people on the internet. I remember being that age myself, and doing a bunch of stupid stuff that I somehow managed to survive. At the end of the day if my own handling skills and situational awareness aren't up to dealing with these situations, I count that as something I should probably address.

Realistically, my risk of being harmed by someone wearing headphones is miniscule compared to the general risks of racing bikes, or riding in traffic, or heaven forbid driving my car to the post office or even just getting out of bed in the morning.

It's not complicated.

It's not complicated.

If riding alone on a good road, I sometimes like to listen to music, so I have headphones.

If I'm riding up a narrow canyon and/or on a road with a poor shoulder, I like to hear the traffic coming up behind better, so I turn the music off.

If I'm in a group ride, I don't wear headphones because it's rude.