So, thankfully it is FINALLY starting to look like spring out there! Many of us around the office have leaped at the chance to hop back on our bicycles (of course there were those few of us that never stopped). The only thing I could imagine that would make being out on the road again any sweeter, would be some great tunes! Car drivers, transit riders, and peds (the way the cool folks say pedestrians now) are able to listen to music or have a conversation if they choose. Cyclists however, have to listen to this urban symphony of cars honking, tires screeching, buses breaking…and its not nearly as beautiful as it sounds.
There are some practical safety reasons that many cyclists do not listen to music on their commute, not being able to hear the sounds of surrounding traffic can be very dangerous. In fact, police say that if cyclists or drivers have earphones in both ears they can be ticketed. In a tragic accident last summer a young cyclist that had been listening to her music was hospitalized after being hit by a car.
Now lets think about this, if you could hear surrounding traffic and still enjoy your music, would that make it okay? Several devices have recently been created with this exact purpose in mind. This past weekend on CBC’s Spark program, host Nora Young tested a new device called the Tunebug Shake. The Shake is a small fixture (about the size of an egg) that attaches to the top of your helmet and it uses its contour as an acoustic amplifier. Connecting via bluetooth or cable to your Ipod or MP3 device, the Shake provides 3D sound without any wires getting in the way, and without covering the ears.
Nora had invited a Toronto Constable, Hugh Smith to help her test the Shake by talking with her as she listened to a podcast (mix of music and talking). Constable Smith is also the National Examiner for Can Bike, a national cycling safety education program. Although the pair did not actually test the device by getting on a bike, Nora found that she was not able to multi-task by both listening to the podcast and maintaining a conversation. The constable said he found the noise was quiet enough, and could not see it bothering those walking or waiting at the bus stop as a cyclist passed. The two agreed the device might be better if it were just playing music, and if it were used on recreational trails. Other reviewers of the Shake said it was great for cycling, and that they could hear the traffic very well.
The desire to hear music while cycling has even inspired some people to come up with their own ideas about how to achieve a similar result by nesting your headphones in between the lining of your helmet.
What do people think?
Could these types of devices provide a safe way for cyclists to enjoy their commute along with some great tunes, or could this device be to dangerous for the road?
Wow! What an interesting split folks! Looks like the verdict on this one is still out, not that there is a right answer. Maybe instead of listening to music, we as cyclists should start being the music…this couple seems to have the right idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=litbSva9oNU
I’m not gonna lie, I tend to have music playing when I’m riding my bike. But, I also tend to have music playing when I’m doing just about everything. I like having a soundtrack to my commute. If I’m in a hurry, some good hard beats can get me to work just a little quicker. I know it’s probably not super safe, but I think I’m fairly aware of what’s going on around me. And, you know, I don’t recall the details of that accident last summer, but I’m going to say that putting the blame on the cyclist and not (at least equally) on the motorist is a shame.
I think relying on your hearing to judge where cars are (and aren’t) is actually UNSAFE.
I think you NEED to look around to be safe. Since I can look around while listening to my Norwegian death-metal (or Hawaiian spoken-word poetry on Sundays) I feel like I’m safe.
At least that’s what I tell myself.
PS I’m writing this comment on my phone while biking home
Dear Norwegian Death-Metal/Hawaiian Poetry,
I’m pretty sure texting while biking would cause more problems than tunage while biking. Please stay alive 🙂
Depends on the ride I guess. A long, solo ride on the weekend? I like some music. Commuting in the city? Not so much.
As Greg said, you need to be able to judge the proximity of cars and you just can’t do this properly with earphones or speakers.
I’ll stick to a bud in one ear when riding with tunes. Good to keep in mind that others may not want to hear our music either!
I’ve never been a fan of music while riding.
With two ears, I can tell exactly how close, and how fast cars are coming from behind. I can tell when a vehicle is accelerating, so I can match their pace. In the winter, you can also judge the snow/ice conditions by how they sound against your tire.
Above and beyond the practical aspects, I just plain love the sounds that surround me while riding. I don’t want to drown them out. A combination of sights, smells and sounds always make for an enjoyable ride.
Safer. Free urban symphony.
Interesting…I hadn’t given thought to how the importance of sound might change in the winter months.
Sounds neat, but I just leave one earphone out of my ear, the left ear which is, of course, closest to traffic. Turn it down a bit and I can still hear everything that is going on! Cheaper and doesn’t require purchasing another ‘thing’!
I think you should just sing on your bike rides or listen to the birds.
Shoni, take a look at how the inverted bicycle in your office that is suspended from the ceiling seems to be attached to your bike helmet. That is a very cool device – does it act as an antenna for tuning in to hip musical telecasts?
Shoni, this information is super cool.
I’m not a proponent of “musical rides” whether it is a pair of earphones while cycling or the traditional RCMP horse ride. I prefer to hear the hub bub of those screeching tires, yakking pedestrians as well as the soft whisper of the wind.
However, the devices being trialled can offer an alternative for those who actualy do want to enjoy their favourite music as they commute in an Earth-friendly fashion.
Whatever the case – ride safely and enjoy that there is to enjoy!
Congratulations on yuor first-ever blog!!! Welcome to blog-us-sphere 2011.