If a car runs over you from behind and you never heard it coming, does it leave a tire track on your body?

As long as we are having fun with the Legislature, let’s not forget House Bill 2602, which would make a criminal of this smartly dressed young Secret Service agent in training:

What do you think we are talking about here? An adult helmet law? Nah, they tried that a few years ago. It didn’t go anywhere.

Here’s another hint. This guy, spotted at 13th and Alder, just at the edge of campus, also would be afoul of the law:

What’s that, you say? A law against brakeless fixies? Nope, that’s not it either.

Here’s another scofflaw:

Track-standing in the crosswalk? Sorry, that’s not it either.

Yes, I think you’re onto it now. House Bill 2602 is about music. There shall be NO music — not while you are riding your bike anyway. More specifically, it would outlaw the wearing of “listening devices” while riding a bicycle on the streets.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Schaufler, a Democrat from Happy Valley. But as it turns out, we may not have to wrestle with the question of whether this should be illegal.

Last week, this bill had found its way onto the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee. It was scheduled to have a hearing this Thursday, meaning it was moving ahead. But as of this morning it was no longer listed in the committee’s schedule of hearings

A staff member at the House Judiciary Committee said today that, “It was pulled, and has not been rescheduled at this time.”

And David Harrell, the person who replied to the e-mail I sent to Rep. Schaufler today, said simply: “I do not believe there is any momentum for this bill to move forward.”

So there you have it. Maybe the bill won’t be an issue. But the topic is still worth discussing.

When BikePortland did the story regarding this bill, it provoked a whole raft of comments that address every thought I had about this bill and then some. I won’t rehash all of that here. But if you are interested, go have a read. I started out being mildly in favor of such a law, and after reading all of the comments, I think I ended up mildly against it.

The Portland alternative newspaper Willamette Week had a story quoting Rep. Schaufler on his motivations for introducing this bill, which include the idea that while riding a bike “you should have all your wits about you.”

I have to say, I have never been a fan of riding in traffic while employing a “listening device.” I don’t like the sensation. I like to hear what’s going on around me — for safety reasons, but also because it’s just part of the way I like to experience a bike ride.

I like to hear that guy shouting at me, “Get out of the way, idiot!” I like to hear the teenagers erupt in cheers as they hurl a paper soda cup full of ice at me as they drive past late at night. (Really happened. The cup exploded as it hit the pavement directly in front of my front wheel and I ran over it. I’m glad it didn’t hit me in the face.)

So the philosophical question I wrestle with is this: Because I don’t like to do it, should it be illegal? Because I think it is not the safest way to ride, should it be illegal? If I am annoyed that another cyclist wearing headphones doesn’t seem to hear me as I pass him, should it be illegal? If the cyclist is listening to techno, should it be illegal?

6 thoughts on “If a car runs over you from behind and you never heard it coming, does it leave a tire track on your body?

  1. For those who won’t take the time to read the BikePortland story and may be on the fence (or for) this bill let me point out a few of those thoughts on the bill:

    -bicycle safety should be less about reducing bicyclist distractions, and more about vehicle distractions, because it is the vehicles that pose the most risk and threat

    -surrounded by glass and metal and protected inside you’re car, you’re already paying less attention than a person riding a bike

    -the law should define and prosecute distracted driving, and not reference a particular technology… it’s addressing a symptom and not the problem itself

    -should deaf people also be outlawed from riding bikes?

    -first cyclists. skateboarding, scooters, and walking next? Radios in cars?

    -how important IS sound to rider safety? Perceived or real?

    -blocking out traffic noise may actually improve your safety, allowing you to focus with your most important biking sense, sight, even better.

    I’m sure there are more. Bad legislation. Let’s get to the real problems out there shall we? No more fluff!

  2. This is a pretty good summary of a lot of what’s on the BikePortland post. There’s more, too. And a few people who actually were in favor of the bill, I should note — though they were definitely in the minority.

    I’m not sure I agree on that last point, Shane: “blocking out traffic noise may actually improve your safety.” But I do agree on the overall gist of your argument — that the best way to improve bike safety is not to require cyclists to wear full-body armor and such, but to put more responsibility on motorists and on those who design and build the roads. So full-body armor isn’t necessary.

  3. Yeah, I don’t really agree with it either but it was something that was brought up and I think it’s about as believable as ‘headphones are dangerous’. Where’s the data?!

    To be honest, I do use headphones sometimes when I ride. I like to listen to the radio to get the news on my commute as well as listen to audio books on some long rides and yes, even music. I was on one of those rides just this morning out Bailey Hill listening to a story and let me assure you I could hear cars coming just fine (plus see them in the mirror I use)… but the real danger when you are riding is not whats behind you it’s what’s in front and on the side of you that is important. That’s where site is the key tool.

    1. ok, here goes…. I am NOT a bicyclist nor would my feet even know what to do if I suddenly started riding one. :) I only even happened onto this site because of something I saw yesterday in Eugene. Your comments have made me think. I am for freedom at all costs so I wouldnt ever vote for a law restricting any right to another citizen. I drive in town near the University every day. I know we are a town that has many pedestrians and bicyclists as well. I love our diversity and green appeal, however, each and every day while driving my car (which has blind spots that I try to stay aware of) I inevitably have at least 2-3 bicyclists cruise right in front of me as if they dont care about the outcome if I didnt see them. I would never run anyone down on purpose and I try to remain vigilant.
      Yesterday on 7th east of the McDonalds, a young woman on a bicycle was hit. She was unconcious as I passed, but I assume she is ok because I can’t find anything information-wise about her (in the news or otherwise). BUT…. the one thing I remember vividly about seeing her was that her ear-buds and I-pod were scattered out from where she lay. So I assume she was wearing them and listening to music as she rode. I think I would also be inclined to do as well. This is the example of what can happen. As a driver I MUST have insurance, and abide by all the traffic laws. Without insurance, I might even be hauled right to jail. So here’s my new view. I think perhaps some bicycling laws are needed in a town with so many cyclists. I think the same laws should apply to bikes as cars when riding on the same streets. When in a bicycling lane or a specially defined area just for bikes, then maybe different rules could apply. Just my two cents… now back to trying to find out if that woman is ok. I can’t get it out of my head. (also, the young woman who hit her….hysterical and trying to call someone for help…imagine what it’s like to be her tonight.) I’m sure neither of them intentionally did it but its a sad statement to our self absorption.

      1. There is no more self absorption that can be inferred from from a pair of headphones and an i-thing being present than there is from the driver of the car having a car stereo or cell phone.

  4. I’m glad this died, because I don’t have time to write the WBE editorial about it that I wanted to write.

    I was going to make these points:

    – “That looks dangerous” is not a valid criteria for making something illegal. That would also outlaw all extreme sports, unicycles, skateboards, and driving on the interstate. It would also outlaw walking on the bike trail with headphones, which I find far more annoying since those people don’t hear my warning.

    – This would make it illegal for a bike to use a hands free phone, but legal for a car driver. That’s backwards. Cars also have blasting stereos and rolled up windows. Cars are also far more dangerous to everyone – regulating bikes more than cars seems to betray a hidden agenda.

    I sometimes ride with headphones, but I pop the left ear out if I’m on the road. I also keep them pretty low.

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