Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Another look at HB 2602, which would prohibit biking with headphones on

Posted by on January 18th, 2011 at 12:41 pm


Should it be illegal?
(Photo © J. Maus)

Lost in last week’s kerfluffle about a potential ban on biking with kids, was another bill proposed in the current Oregon legislative session that deserves our attention.

House Bill 2602 (text), sponsored by Representative Michael Schaufler (D-Happy Valley), would create a new traffic violation for “unsafe operation of a bicycle” if a person “operates a bicycle on a highway while wearing a listening device that is capable of receiving telephonic communication, radio broadcasts or recorded sounds.” The offense would come with a maximum fine of $90.

Like Rep. Mitch Greenlick, who said he proposed the six-and-under biking ban out of a concern for safety, Schaufler is also motivated by safety. He told me last week that “I just saw some guy driving down the street on their bike with their headphones on and thought, ‘He could get run over.’ It’s a safety issue. It’s pretty cut and dry. It’s a very simple, very basic concept.”

He’s right, it’s a basic concept. But is it necessary? Is it a good idea? Here’s a sampling of responses I’ve read:

“…I posit that 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..”

“When you’re already surrounded by glass and metal and protected inside you’re car, you’re already paying less attention than a person riding a bike while blasting punk rock.”

“It may be more effective to expand the existing cellphone law to include cyclists [but with a lower fine for cyclists] and to allow the use of a single headphone to listen to music, etc…”

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

What’s interesting about this proposal is that, the way it’s currently written, it would create an entirely new violation — “unsafe operation of a bicycle” — in the vehicle code. If passed, it’s possible that additional provisions could be added to this law in the name of safety. Another thing to keep in mind is that, because of the way our current cell phone law is worded, it’s unclear whether or not it applies to bicycle operators.

As for Rep. Schaufler, he’s reportedly frustrated with “the online opposition from cyclists.” Here’s what he told the Willamette Week recently:

“They (cyclists) are the ones that are complaining about it,” Schaufler said. “People on bicycles ask for a whole lot and then they say, ‘don’t regulate us!’”

UPDATE: As at least one commenter has pointed out, Rep. Schaufler was one of four legislators who co-sponsored the infamous mandatory bike registration bill that reared its ugly head in the 2009 session.

We’ll track this bill as it works its way through the legislative process. In the meantime, contact Schaufler and please weigh in below with your thoughts.

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  • Marcus Griffith January 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Want to improve bicycle safety on the cyclists end? Increase the light requirements.

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    • Corndog January 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      AMEN to this. I am a huge cycling advocate and commuter and have been since long before it became cool. But I can understand why there tends to be so much animosity towards cyclist in our community.

      I don’t know how many times a day i see cyclists ridding in the rain at night in dark clothes with only the faintest of lights on their bikes. It’s amazing more cyclist aren’t hit in the winter when the sun sets so early and the rain turns everything black.

      I would think having some minimum requirements for light brightness on a bike would be a much more sensible use of our representatives time than trying to ban kids from ridding bikes or telling cyclists they cant listen to music while ridding. Even with headphones on I can hear and sense what is going on around me on a bike better than when I am driving in a car with the radio on.

      In all honesty I think we should forget about all of this. I find it ironic that most of these people pushing for more bike restrictions also happen to be republicans that used our last elections to rage on about how government has gotten to big and yet here they are trying to use the government to limit what I can or can’t do on a bike.

      Laws like this don’t make people safer they just take away our freedoms and our options for making our own sound decisions.

      I lived in Amsterdam for years, where everyone rides with kids on their bikes sans helmets and listening to music, and it was one of the safest and happiest places I have been.

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      • eli bishop January 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm

        i agree with you, corndog, except that we should forget this: in part because both bills were proposed by democrats.

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      • Opus the Poet January 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm

        You know that there is already a minimum performance standard in the law, right? visible from so many feet away and all that?

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  • Sean G January 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    As much as I opposed the under six bill, I was glad to at least receive a response from Rep. Greenlick when I shared my concerns. Rep. Schaufler, on the other hand, has not chosen to respond to my letter expressing my concerns, which is disappointing.

    As stated in the original post about this, I feel this law is pretty silly considering the soundproofing and stereos found in every car on the road. I can hear conversational tones with my mp3 player on, I challenge a motorist with their car running and windows up to do the same.

    I saw a guy looking at his GPS in his car and I thought, “He could hit someone.” Should we thus ban GPS units?

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    • John I. January 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      Sean G

      I saw a guy looking at his GPS in his car and I thought, “He could hit someone.” Should we thus ban GPS units?

      Maybe the guy on the bike didn’t have his radio/music on, he was just keeping the wind out of his ears.

      I love it when people just jump to conclusions.
      How about doing some research first.

      Wish I could just make up laws as I go around town.

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    • ambrown January 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      Meh. I still haven’t received a response from Greenlick, all the more unfortunate because I am his constituent.

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    • meh October 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      Except every car comes equipped with three mirrors allowing vision to be used to determine if there are dangers coming from behind.

      How many cyclists use a mirror of any kind but instead rely on their hearing to determine that they are being overtaken?

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  • Jason January 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    No. This is not fair. I ride with earbuds in at a low volume. I can still hear cars coming up from behind me. Whats next skateboarders? Roller-bladers? Joggers? Pedestrians?

    If this passes, I will still ride with music. Viva la civil disobedience!

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    • John Landolfe January 19, 2011 at 10:18 am

      Jason, you bring up a good point: that we don’t really know what someone is listening to on headphones. Likewise, we don’t know who is daydreaming while driving a car, drunk while riding a bike, having a distracted conversation while operating a truck, et cetera until that person actually operates in an unsafe way. I find it odd to make a preemptive strike against specifically bicyclists and specifically headphones with no scientific evidence to support the concern.

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    • rigormrtis January 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      I happen to be an excellent driver when I am talking on the phone. Shouldn’t I be allowed to continue to do so?

      It’s “not fair” because it happens to impact your own individual behavior. Regulation is great, so long as it impacts the other guy.

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  • Paul Manson January 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    I personally think its a bad idea to use headphones, but I do not think it rises to the level of a new law.

    I’d rather have all my senses about me personally. I do notice I startle some other cyclists when they have headphones in – don’t think they can hear my bell or voice before I overtake them.

    One thing to note is that headphone use may play a role in a civil suit if a cyclist is hit. The motorist could say the headphone use contributed to the crash.

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    • Nick V January 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      Spot on. I don’t see a problem with this law for the same reason that we should all stop at stop signs – if we want the same rights as cars, we have to have the same restrictions. Plus a cyclist wearing headphones, earphones, or whatever looks like (s)he couldn’t care less about their surroundings. Even if only taken from a PR point of view, that’s not good.

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      • Andrew January 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm

        But Nick, our cell phone law actually ENCOURAGES the use of earbuds/hands-free sets while driving. So how is this putting us on equal footing?

        And to take it a step further, it’s not like the cell phone law itself is enforceable, anyway.

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  • dan January 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Please, Mr. Schaufler, the correct expression is “cut and dried,” not “cut and dry.”

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    • jamesmoore80 January 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks dan. Also just so you know, it must be hyphenated. “Cut-and-dried”

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      • JAT in Seattle January 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm

        As long as we’re handing out weird style diktats it need only be hyphenated when it modifies a noun.

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        • dan January 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm

          That’s my understanding as well.

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  • t.a. barnhart January 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    if he adds a provision to measure whether cars are operating with their music on too loud, then cool. but if you ride a bike & depend on hearing traffic for safety, you’re toast. what we hear on a bike is virtually irrelevant; it’s what we see. i’d happily support a mirrors-on-bikes (or helmets) law. i, too, wear earbuds, and i can hear more than well enough. and with my mirror (the one made by the guy from Bike Gallery; it’s awesome), i know all i need to know to stay safe.

    another well-intentioned bill from someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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    • rigormrtis January 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      earphones also act to muffle sound whereas open ears (albeit with loud music) do not.

      My earbud headphones are great at noise reduction.

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  • nick January 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    So, what it the headphone is also your hands-free device? i.e. iphone earbud?

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  • Dave January 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Here’s the problem I have with this – automobiles are always being designed to increasingly more and more isolate their passengers from the outside. They are advertised with this as a main selling point – that a semi can pass you on the road and you won’t hear it. Nobody is complaining about this, and in fact, then people are adding stereos playing loud music on top of that. Still nobody is complaining. Then you see a person on a bicycle with headphones, and you get all irate that they can’t hear what’s going on around them?

    This is just another way of targeting cyclists. Ban on headphones – I’m fine with that (seriously), as long as you also push to introduce legislation that would require measures that would allow a person in a car to actually interact with their surroundings. It’s another case of forcing cyclists to “behave” while allowing rampant bad behavior by other road users.

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    • Eva January 18, 2011 at 3:53 pm


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    • Spiffy January 19, 2011 at 7:26 am

      yes! preach it!

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    • Opus the Poet January 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      I’m reminded of the Toyota commercials from 2 years ago with the cannon going off outside the car not waking the sleeping rabid badgers in the car, but the cell phone ringing inside the car did wake them, to the driver’s demise. Now if cars can muffle gunshots to near inaudible levels, why pick on cyclists with headphones?

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    • rigormrtis January 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      Luckily, cars have other safety features such as airbags and seatbelts. What correlating things does a bike have?

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      • spare_wheel January 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm

        How many fatalities do bikes cause each year?

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    • Adron @ Transit Sleuth October 27, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      Exactly. I’m always glad when someone else realizes the real ideological implications of this type of rule making.

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  • NW Biker January 18, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I agree with Paul Manson’s comment. Part of the reason I ride is to get away from electronic noise and clear my head (I work in front of a computer all day), but I don’t think we need a law against those who ride while listening to music or talking on the phone any more than we do for motorists.

    As someone else here said, where does it end?

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  • q`Tzal January 18, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    No one will argue that the deaf are not allowed to drive a car therefore there is no legal standing to discriminate against the deaf riding bi

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    • April January 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm

      I’m not sure that this is relevant. Deaf people are used to using their other senses to compensate.

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      • todd January 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm

        And so do bicyclists wearing headphones. The smart ones, anyway. And I submit that even a deaf bicyclist is more fully aware of his or her extent in space and surroundings, and far less of a threat to others, than a fully-abled car driver. Ever hear of a backover incident by bicycle?

        I acknowledge that riding with phones is less safe than without. So is riding without eye protection. Doesn’t mean we need a law against either! It just calls for judgment about which conditions merit extra caution. Laws restricting personal freedom need strong evidence of a burden to society posed by the practice in question, where “strong” means “more of a burden than commonly accepted practices” such as driving the speed limit in town.

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    • buglas January 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      I have a family member who is deaf. The law requires that he have two outside mirrors on his vehicle – pretty much standard issue these days.

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    • Kt January 19, 2011 at 9:23 am

      The deaf are allowed to drive a car, so long as they pass the same tests everyone has to pass.

      It’s the BLIND who aren’t allowed to drive.

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  • SD January 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    This legislation is misguided and based on false assumptions. It is targeting a visible behavior that has not been shown to cause harm.
    If you rely on hearing for safe riding, you are not riding safely.
    The only instance where hearing enhances safe cycling I can imagine is when a siren is warning of an emergency vehicle running a red light. Sirens are not blocked out by headphones.
    The assumption that you need to have all of your senses to bike safely is incorrect.
    Effort should go into teaching bikers to ride deliberately and courteously, which does not require hearing. Effort should go into creating a culture of safe informed cycling; not guessing at what looks unsafe and jumping to legislation.

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    • Ray Ogilvie January 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm

      What? You don’t need all you senses to ride safely?
      How can you hear the motorists yelling “Get off the road, you subversive!” ?

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  • q`Tzal January 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Iblockquote cite=”q`Tzal”>
    No one will argue that the deaf are not allowed to drive a car therefore there is no legal standing to discriminate against the deaf riding bi

    Stupid dumbphone
    … deaf riding bicycles in public.
    If the deaf can be allowed to cycle in public and walk in public then the rampant preventative fear mongers disguised as professional lawmakers need to stop and think first.
    Perhaps they’ll learn that “any press is good press” does not appyl to politics.

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  • davemess January 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Ride down Barbur or Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy, you’re not hearing much of anything anyway!

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  • riversiderider January 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I think it is unsafe to ride with headphones but I would not go so far as to create a law outlawing it.

    I will not ride with anyone who is using a headphone and have on occasion startled riders using them even though I have called out the customary “on your left”.

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  • BURR January 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Seems to me like it would make more sense to require bicycles to be equipped with mirrors.

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    • Ray Ogilvie January 18, 2011 at 7:17 pm

      What would you be looking for in the mirror, while taking your attention away from where you are going,
      that you couldn’t hear internaly combusting behind you?

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      • Kt January 19, 2011 at 9:25 am

        Other people riding bicycles who want to pass you.

        Unless you count digestion as internal combustion– and if I’m digesting loud enough for you to hear me upon approach, maybe I should see a doctor.

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  • becky January 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    So, Handsfree cell phone use would be legal for cars but not bikes under this bill. It’s slightly nuts.

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  • Bill January 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I will support the law if automobiles have to drive with all their windows down and no music so they have the same level of awareness. Would motorcycles also have to remove all audio equipment from their helmets?

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  • Tomas Quinones January 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    ANOTHER poor way to start a “discussion” Mr. “Think of the Children”. Before this law can even be considered, please put something on the books about the maximum decibels allowed in car stereos? I’ve never heard headphone cause my house to shake like some of the pimped-out cars that cruise Hawthorne regularly.

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  • halfwheeled January 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Banning headphones is the only part of the bill that makes sense. It is sad to hear cyclist agree headphones are unsafe, yet don’t think passing a law is reasonable. Headphones are already BANNED in most cycling clubs and race teams I know of in Oregon. So passing a law is not to far off from what cycling organizations already impose on themselves.

    If the bill is “unclear” as to if cyclists are included, then we should default to assume cyclists are included since we are supposed to follow vehicular laws until clarification. Why on earth would we exclude cyclists from the rules of the road? It’s just common courtesy to other road users to obey the law.

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    • tyea January 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

      Riding in a cycling club is different than commuting on a bicycle or riding solo. Some clubs ban headphones for the following reasons (which do not justify legislation banning headphones. Legislation should be based on safety statistics)
      1. Litigation in case of a bicycle related wreck. Most club rides require your signature just prior to the ride on a sign up sheet with a release form. Unfortunately, most clubs must have restricting rules to minimize litigation from even their own members.
      2. Riding clubs are often considered social events, and wearing headphones is not friendly for social riding.
      3. Riding on a club ride, riders often group close together, and one person wrecking may result in the closely surrounding riders wrecking, thus zero distractions are mandated under the fear of litigation for club policies that could be considered a liability. Additionally, often large club rides result in long lines riding two abreast on the roadway, which demands hearing warnings from the back of the pack about cars coming from behind.

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      • eli bishop January 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm

        agreed! i don’t wear headphones during group rides for these reasons.

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      • gearhead January 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm

        I wonder if you ever commuted in portland by bicycle:

        – Commuting often requires one to ride close together with bikes and cars, just like in clubs. Ever heard of bicycle gridlock? In fact, the commutes I have on bikes has always been more crowded and intense than when riding in a club.
        – I have yet to see any materials from the BTA that recommends the use of headphones while riding. And they recommend a lot of things in their literature.
        – My experience commuting is often chaotic, thus requiring more attention than an organized calmer club ride.
        – Club riders are often more experienced riders than commuters in my experience. I realize this opinion is subjective. The craziest, dangerous, most outrageous behavior on bikes has typically been observed on my bicycle commutes.
        – Bike clubs and commuting ARE THE SAME as we obey the same laws of the road.

        To be honest, I’m not concerned about most riders on this forum using headphones. It’s the idiot bicycle riders with headphones and phones that I’m worried about most, and passing a law limits the idiots action, not the action of responsible riders. We don’t need any more self-imposed distractions on our rides.

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        • tyea January 19, 2011 at 8:02 am

          I commute every day on a bicycle, and have been bicycle commuting daily almost continuously for 20 years. I ride on N Williams during rush hour, which is probably one of the most crowded bike lanes. I ride on some portland wheelman club (no ear phones allowed with them) rides, and ride in many of the riding events like, reach-the-beach. I AM speaking from experience. Outlawing headphones is a waste of time and is not a statistically proven bicycle riding safety hazard. If bicycle safety is the issue, it should focus primarily traffic law enforcement, best practices for visibility, riding skills, and infrastructure rehab/development/planning.

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          • rigormrtis January 19, 2011 at 2:30 pm

            You know, banning cell phones in cars has not been shown to significantly improve driving above and beyond any other distraction……

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        • snapbrim January 19, 2011 at 12:32 pm

          I think maybe you’re assuming that your experience with commuting fairly represents everyone else’s experiences. For me, commuting and club rides are worlds apart, mainly because, being a bit antisocial, the club ride thing pretty much sounds like an effing nightmare- completely at odds with what compels me to ride a bike. Anyway, depending on when and where your commute takes place, you may or may not find yourself rubbing shoulders with other cyclists. In my case, I commute between the SE and NE and I have yet to experience “bike gridlock” on my route. And, no, I don’t use headphones or earbuds while I ride (again, kinda runs contrary to why I ride), but I think it’s up to individuals to monitor their ability to see and hear adequately. Closing thought: if bike laws are to be based on the assumption that cyclists are reckless idiots, why allow cycling at all? Instead, why not assume that people have some sense in their heads and then make laws to deal with those who prove that they have no such sense?

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  • Biker January 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I see this and the under six law as more of the “bikes are unsafe” propaganda. If bikes are unsafe then it is not what the bikes are doing, in general, it is the drivers around them, or the bad conditions on the road. If we are going to go with bans of things that distract, then a all-out ban on music in cars, joggers and walkers with headphones or ear buds blasting away, as well as bicyclists. And maybe a total ban on motorcycles that make noise as they can’t hear anything over the rumble of their engines.

    We might be better at banning politicians, they are dangerous as well!

    Oh, and as for the noise, Portland has a noise ordinance that should shut down vehicles that vibrate the buildings for a block and hogs! But it is never enforced. IMHO a law that is not enforced is not much of a law and can only be used for discriminatory purposes. A law like this would most likely be used to keep from paying for injuries as the fault was the bicyclist who had ear buds, not the driver who ran a red light, drove in the bike lane, turned right without looking, or just drove over a bicycle for the fun.

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  • toddistic January 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I totally rode past you when you were taking these pictures. 🙂

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  • q`Tzal January 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Iblockquote cite=”q`Tzal”>
    No one will argue that the deaf are not allowed to drive a car therefore there is no legal standing to discriminate against the deaf riding bi

    Stupid dumbphone
    … deaf riding bicycles in public.
    If the deaf can be allowed to cycle in public and walk in public then the rampant preventative fear mongers disguised as professional lawmakers need to stop and think first.
    Perhaps they’ll learn that “any press is good press” does not apply to politics.

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  • Evan Manvel January 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    More from the Willamette Week:
    [Schaufler] voiced frustration with the online opposition from cyclists.

    “They (cyclists) are the ones that are complaining about it,” Schaufler said. “People on bicycles ask for a whole lot and then they say, ‘don’t regulate us!’”

    Schaufler said his bill is a common-sense measure designed to protect cyclists.

    “I think it makes sense not to have sound pumped into your ears while you’re riding a bicycle,” he said. “You should have all your wits about you. Do you ride a bicycle with blinders on your eyes? You have to be conscious and ride defensively. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that when you’re on a bicycle you’re far more vulnerable than if you’re in a car or truck.”

    Continued feedback to Rep. Schaufler – and YOUR OWN Representatives – is suggested. Keep it civil and polite, and mention the bill number. rep.mikeschaufler@state.or.us

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    • eli bishop January 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      thanks, evan.

      you know, the tone of Shaufler’s public discourse is really rubbing me the wrong way. “cut and dry,” “anyone with two brain cells to rub against each other,” “People on bicycles ask for a whole lot,” “just saw some guy driving down the street on their bike.”

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  • JR January 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    In grade school, I was taught that elected legislators bring proposals recommended by their constituency after careful consideration by that Rep.
    This is an example of a legislator proposing something of his own invention without voter support or careful consideration which undermines my trust in representative democracy and makes me wonder how much money and time we waste on such things.
    I want my Reps tackling the hard questions brought forth by the people…(hmmm, by the people)…not making up stuff that must then by studied, lobbied for and against, then never enforced in the real world anyway.

    Rep. Schaufler’s interest in improving transportation safety is swell but ignores the elephant in the intersection; automobiles.
    We do not currently have the capacity to enforce even the basic rules handed out with our driver’s license privileges. Cops spend half their time sweeping up car collisions on a routine daily schedule. I’d prefer we find ways to:
    Stop uninsured motorists from driving.
    Criminalize killing a person with your car.
    Make all road users pay their share including costs generated from colliding with one another.
    Educate all users on shared road responsibilities.
    Quit taking up public space with private vehicle storage.

    then you can start legislating new stuff like checking the volume on my phone or IDing my 6 year old on his bike ride to school.

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    • JAT in Seattle January 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      this is a very sensible civics lesson, and even if it’s only a fiction that legislators bring proposals from their concerned contituents rather than just dreaming stuff up, it’s certainly a reasonable aspiration for government.

      having said that (and i say this from a state where headphone use is already illegal and rarely if ever enforced) and setting aside the deaf driver/cyclist strawman… are your headphones really turned down far enough that you can hear a conversation?…

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  • eli bishop January 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    i’m still working on my letter, but it intends to invite rep. shaufler to drive to salem every day without his radio/CD player for a week. sure, he’ll be able to hear the road better, but does it actually help him drive?

    personally, i’m shocked at how flippantly it seems he decided to create this law: just because he saw something that -could- be dangerous he wants to pass a law against it? that’s ridiculous. i mean, oregon doesn’t even require helmets! if this passes i’ll be absolutely gobsmacked.

    i wish he’d spend the time making happy valley a safer place to bike instead.

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  • Joe January 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I am with Jason.. JUST ONE EAR 🙂

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  • spare_wheel January 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    i listen to mp3s using a single earbud. this has little or no impairment on my ability hear traffic noise.

    “People on bicycles ask for a whole lot and then they say, ‘don’t regulate us!”

    wow…just wow! this is the kind of sentiment i expect from an oregonian-posting astroturfer, not an elected democrat.

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  • David Haines January 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    “operates a bicycle on a highway while wearing a listening device that is capable of receiving telephonic communication, radio broadcasts or recorded sounds.”

    Unless I’m missing something, this bill would make it illegal to wear a bluetooth earpiece on a bike, but not in a car. Exactly what problem is this targeting?

    As with the children-on-bikes “discussion,” there needs to be specific, hard data. Assumptions and inferences, based on broad studies or casual observation don’t cut it.

    For all proposed legislation, I wish legislators would state exactly what the problem is, prove it with objective facts, then explain why their proposal is the best solution.

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    • John Russell (jr98664) January 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm

      Yeah, i’m not too fond of the language “listening device that is capable of receiving telephonic communication, radio broadcasts or recorded sounds”, as I don’t see any other indication that this means strictly headphones. Technically, isn’t a boombox a listening device capable of recorded sounds? If it were in a backpack or something, it would count as wearing it, which as I understand would be illegal under this law.

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      • Spiffy January 19, 2011 at 9:15 am

        ouch! good catch there… AND it also doesn’t state that you have to be using the device, so technically just having it in your backpack while turned off is a violation…

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  • Kevin January 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I tried a single ear, and for me, the volume increase required wasn’t worth it. I use two ears, and I keep the volume level low because I don’t want to damage my hearing….that means that if there is any headwind at all, I just turn my podcast or audiobook off, because the wind noise is louder…

    …which leads me to propose that one of these wonderful representatives ban headwinds, because they create unsafe levels of noise.

    (of course, I also find it entertaining that it’s the wearing of headphones that’s banned rather than volume levels or even whether sound is coming through them… my iphone headphones are nearly always in, but sometimes it’s just so that I can answer my phone hands free….you know, like the law says I should!)

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    • eli bishop January 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      ha! yes, please! i would love for there to be a ban on headwind!

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  • Jim F January 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Just because it is dumb, doesn’t need we need to make it illegal.

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  • h January 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    what about requiring mirror while you are using earphones? in most states, deaf people are required to have a left mirror on vehicle while driving. i think this could apply to headphone users on bicycles. Just saying…

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  • mmann January 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I’m with the others who have said, in essence, I don’t ride with headphones, but I don’t think it should be illegal.

    I guess what bothers me about this and Greenlick’s bill is the seemingly haphazard way they’re coming up with legislation – which basically amounts to seeing something they are uncomfortable with and thinking “Why, there outta be a law!” Seriously?!? In our current economy, with the multitude of problems Oregon is facing, this is the best they can come up with? It just smacks of pandering to the whiniest constituents. Here’s an idea: Check with the DMV, the police departments, and emergency room records to see if there’s actually a problem. When the cell phone driving ban was finally proposed, there was plenty of hard evidence that showed people were dying out there as a result of distracted driving. Are cyclist riding with headphones involved in a disproportionate number of accidents? Are emergency rooms seeing an unusual number of kids injured while riding on their parent’s bike? If so, you’ve got a case. But if you can’t demonstrate a need, stop wasting our time and money.
    Here’s a proposed bill for you: a bill that bans proposed legislation without documentation of a need for the law.

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  • April January 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I do wear headphones on occasion when I ride, and I keep them low enough to hear someone ringing a bell, a large vehicle approaching from behind, that kind of thing.

    In general I think it’s kinda stupid to ban headphones, when cars are allowed to have music loud enough to drown out any traffic noises.

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  • Kevin January 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I’ll echo the sentiment that I would be fine with a law that limits the number of decibels of noise reduction allowed for any operator of any vehicle.

    I used to have a pair of those headphones that sit into your ear canal and act like a pair of earplugs – I think they had something like 20db of noise reduction on their own…I would *never* wear those on a bike, but really, I don’t think they reduced outside noise more than most cars do with the windows closed.

    I’m also uncomfortable with the assumption that cyclists need to use their ears more than cars – I think implied in that is that cyclists need to hear when a car is behind them so that they can “get the hell out of the way.”

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  • Brian January 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Unbelievable. UNBELIEVABLE. All the legal and illegal distraction factors prevelant in cars are much more dangerous to everybody. Add some teeth the cell phone laws if you want to improve safety. Biking with ear phones, that is a personal problem. If you are driving an suv while distracted you are menace to everybody on the road.

    This smacks of blaming a victim.

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  • sabernar January 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I’m a cyclist and I’d LOVE to see this bill passed. I can’t stand riding near anyone with headphones. For the most part, they have no clue that anyone else exists.

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    • spare_wheel January 18, 2011 at 3:01 pm

      i apologize for passing you the other day, sabernar.

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    • Andrew January 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      Sorry I didn’t hear you on the bridge last week, sabernar.

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    • Spiffy January 19, 2011 at 9:23 am

      odd that the headphones of other riders have never bothered me… only their stupid actions bother me… maybe I’m just one of the odd ones…

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  • CaptainKarma January 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I think that’s what’s going on is a campaign to cause bicyclists to become reactionary and start screeching and look like cretins. Might be working.

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  • John Lascurettes January 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I’m all for supporting the bill, the minute it includes a provision to outlaw radios, sound-proofing and side windows in all cars.

    I challenge any person in any car to better hear their environmental cues surrounding them at any speed against me wearing earbuds with the music on.

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    • John Lascurettes January 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      … “against me wearing earbuds with the music on while on my bike,” that should have read.

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  • Bob_M January 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I don’t ride with ear buds. There is plenty to pay attention to with out music. I have been frustrated by cyclists with ear buds who don’t have a clue that other persons are near by (despite bell ringing and vocal attention grabbers) My opinion is typical retro-grouch, that it is dumb, just like using a cell phone while driving is dumb.

    You can not and should not make a law against being dumb, but because the wires to ear buds are noticable, a LEO can easily identify the “distracted rider”

    this bill does not stand a snow ball’s chance in hell of being passed. and Michael Schaufler the nanny state rep from happy valley is wasting his time.

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  • Kenji January 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    No matter what happens, I’ll still use them. And you can quote me on that.

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  • JM January 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Why not a law requiring these morons to wear helmets. Helmets are a good idea but I see a lot of people w/o them everyday. Headphones are much less a problem.

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    • Toby January 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

      Morons? Really? What a peach…

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  • h January 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    some day earphones become wireless and more smaller it makes difficult for cops to enforce… hearing aids are made so small that is well-hid in the ears. I think this bill is pointless, wasteful and unenforceable.

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    • michweek January 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      Sennheiser already makes wireless earbuds. They are bluetooth I believe.

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  • joe January 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    some day earphones become wireless and more smaller it makes difficult for cops to enforce… hearing aids are made so small that is well-hid in the ears. I think this bill is pointless, wasteful and unenforceable.

    I agree totally. However the bill is made irrelevant by this statement: “operates a bicycle on a highway while wearing a listening device.”

    Around here, we only call Interstates, highways, which no sane cyclist would be caught on.

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    • A.K. January 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm

      While I agree that one would never think about riding down the side of I-84 or I-5, there are many rural roads official labeled “highways” that I have done plenty of riding on, because they have wide shoulders and good visibility, so in some cases it’s not crazy to be “riding on an interstate highway”.

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      • Andrew January 18, 2011 at 5:03 pm

        The last leg of my commute is on SW Barbur, otherwise known as Highway 99W.

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    • John Lascurettes January 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm

      I don’t know how OR defines it in the ORS, but in California pretty much all publicly funded and accessed roads are defined as a legal highway.

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  • tonyt
    tonyt January 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    What I think is worst about it is his quote.

    “I just saw some guy driving down the street on their bike with their headphones on and thought, ‘He could get run over.’ It’s a safety issue. It’s pretty cut and dry. It’s a very simple, very basic concept.”

    Really? This is the basis for burdening people with yet another law? A conclusion arrived at more blithely than one might order a coffee?

    Hmm, I was walking down the street and saw a woman in high heels and thought “She could fall down and get hurt.” It’s a safety issue. It’s pretty cut and dry. It’s a very simple, very basic concept.”

    How about enhancing safety with something backed by DATA.

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  • Evan January 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    All I have to say is that if we ban cyclists from wearing headphones, we should ban walkers and joggers from wearing them too. I’ve rung me bell, then yelled, and then screamed right behind a walker or runner wearing headphones and they are completely oblivious. And then when you pass them closely THEY get mad?!?!
    I have an old cell phone with an SD card and a speaker. It works great when I want tunes on my rides.

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  • Jim Lee January 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Kenji! Dude! On the track?

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  • Bjorn January 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    When I ride a motorcycle I wear earplugs, this bill doesn’t seem to target motorcyclists but lots of people I know have music systems built into their motorcycle helmets, and often motorbikes are so loud you can’t hear over them to begin with. Even with headphones in I can hear what is going on around me better than I can either on my motorcycle or in my car. Considering that I have yet to hear of a single bike vs car collision that police found to be caused by the cyclists headphones I think this is a solution in search of a problem. I don’t mind being regulated on a bike if the regulations make sense and are backed up by data, this bill meets neither standard.

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  • Stripess January 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    What about all the motorists who drive while listening to headphones?

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  • Opus the Poet January 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I personally wouldn’t wear headphones or earbuds while I ride, but then I also had a car with no radio back when I drove cars. What I think is the greater danger is the excessive amount of soundproofing in cars sold today. Emergency vehicle sirens have had to be made louder to the point that hearing protection is required for firemen on a fire engine because of the sound level. My ears ring all the time because of my wreck, but they ring worse when a fire engine goes by my on my bike or when I’m walking on the sidewalk.

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  • Lapis January 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I use headphones when I ride partially for music and partially to protect my ear canals. I keep the sound low enough that I can hear all but the quietest vehicles the majority of the time.

    I’ve tried riding with puffy earmuffs instead, but that muffles my hearing a great deal more and I get lost in thought…. having a beat keeps me out of la la land.

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  • Cychosis January 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I’d just ask for statistics around the problem this bill is trying to solve. Real numbers.

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  • Bill January 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Sometimes my hearing aid picks up garage door opener signal radio broadcasts. I hope I don’t get thrown in the slammer.

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  • Andrew January 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Some perspective on the sponsor:

    From WW, 2007:

    In a caucus of chai drinkers, Schaufler is a throwback—an old-fashioned union guy who thinks trees are a job creation vehicle and enviros work best as hood ornaments.

    From WW, 2009:

    A former contractor who no longer gets his hands dirty—nor has a job outside the Legislature—Schaufler, 49, resembles an extra from The Sopranos. The keg-shaped lawmaker favors shiny suits and suspenders and loads product into his steely hair. He chaired the House Business and Labor Committee with an iron gavel, unapologetically silencing anybody he perceived as disloyal to trade unions. As a conservative Democrat, he continued to be a swing vote on tax and environmental issues. Not surprisingly, lobbyists were widely mixed on his skills and ranked him far higher for effectiveness than brains. “Dumb as a stump and relevant as hell,” says one lobbyist. “Runs on emotion and don’t bother him with the facts.”

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  • Tourbiker January 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Distracted motor vehicles = kill Cyclists.
    Distracted Cyclists =Kill themselves.
    That’s what the headlines will read.
    It’s Smoke & Mirrors.
    make it a law = insurance company’s get to mitigate liability.

    my2c..it’s dumb to ride with a compromised sense.
    and irresponsible to believe that you are “better at it” than the person in the motor vehicle your driving alongside.

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  • Cychosis January 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    @Tourbiker it’s unfair to assume that because someone has their headphones on they are blasting music and are less able to hear their surroundings.

    Of course in some sense I am defending my behavior — but I keep the volume on my headphones quiet enough that I can hear my tires on the road — that is my metric. I am still able to hear several orders of magnitude better in that situation than I can when I am in my car with the radio completely off.

    If there is an accident, an investigation should uncover what contributed to it, and if loud music, either from headphones on a bike, or a car stereo in a car, are found to be significantly contributing factors, then there are laws that cover that already, namely reckless driving, etc.

    I’ve yet to see an introduction to the specific problem this bill is attempting to solve.

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  • A.K. January 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I ran across the following article about “Overcriminalization” today, which I thought fit this discussion perfectly:


    A key sentence from the overview that Representative Michael Schaufler needs to keep in mind: “Bureaucrats Should Not Be Making New Crimes.” Seems fitting to me.

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    • Spiffy January 19, 2011 at 9:53 am

      it also says “…should be made by the American people’s elected representatives.” of which I believe he is…

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  • El Biciclero January 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    “People on bicycles ask for a whole lot and then they say, ‘don’t regulate us!’”

    I am starting to hear this a lot from the bike-envy crowd. Many of the comments on the O story about HB2228 (the other bill that would ban under-sixes from parents’ bikes) were along these lines: “you lefty bikers want all kinds of government regulations–as long as they don’t affect you.”

    I would like to know what the “whole lot” is that cyclists ask for. Personally, I only ask for one thing: don’t kill me. I suppose that is quite a lot to ask for, though…

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    • Spiffy January 19, 2011 at 9:55 am

      I may go as far as to also ask for equal rights… not the same rights as cars, but rights that are equal for bicycles…

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  • chris January 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I am an active Deaf rider in the Portland area. I know first-hand what it’s like to ride without being aware of environmental sounds. I was downtown on my bike a few months ago and almost had an encounter with an ambulance that appeared “out of nowhere” on the crossing in front of me. I was lucky to see it. It’s surprising to think of how many “out of nowhere” moments I’ve had since I can’t hear the road. I compensate by increasing my situational awareness and making sure I am seen by the cars.
    I can see how a rider would want to listen to music on the Springwater Trail, but downtown and in heavy traffic areas I hope riders use their common sense.

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  • dwainedibbly January 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I agree that the real problem is that motorists are too insulated, distracted, etc. I can’t do anything about that so I choose to forgo ear buds and headphones so that I can be more aware of my surroundings in traffic. Still, I don’t think that using them should be outlawed.

    I also agree that if safety was the real concern, these legislators would try to address the real problem. We just happen to be an easy target.

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  • JR January 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    This is pretty hilarious, considering how motorized vehicles often have poor line of sight due to metal in many critical sightlines, insulation from outside noise, and increasingly complex audio, navigation, and telephone devices that may not require holding a phone with one hand.. Seriously? This is the best they can do with their safety concerns?

    I’m far less concerned about a bicyclist not paying attention (which is incredibly rare from what I’ve witnessed on the streets of Portland) than an automobile driver not paying attention (I witness probably 10+ occurrences per day)..

    This is bike envy, pure and simple. This lawmaker needs to grow some thighs and get on a bike.

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  • JR January 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    The funniest part about this is, I had a cop on a motorcycle sitting at the same stop light as me and asked me a question (while I had my headphones on). He spoke in a normal voice and I responded in a normal voice (because I could hear him perfectly fine). Imagine if I was in a car. You think I would’ve been able to hear what he said? No, I’d have to roll down the window.

    Maybe we should have a law that requires cars to automatically roll down their windows when they start?

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  • John I. January 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    This reminds me of a time when I overheard 2 people talking about how dangerous bikes are because if your walking you can’t hear them coming up behind you. “they could run into you”

    The logic is all wrong.

    They seemed to have forgotten cyclists are watching where they are going. Many have mirrors. We look both ways when crossing an intersection. The last thing we want is to be hit, injured or killed. We are not unaware idiots haphazardly jamming to tunes. Not all of us anyway.

    I don’t want a bunch of officials who haven’t tried riding with headphones making a law against it.

    Besides, Deaf people can legally ride. That outta trump the subject right there.

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  • ambrown January 18, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I personally see no problem with legislating that cyclists shouldn’t be listening to headphones while biking through traffic. I think a potential compromise could arise if we noted that the activity was illegal while biking on public right of ways (ie, roads, bike lanes, sidewalks) but perhaps legal in other locations (ie multiuse trails, off-road trails, mountain biking routes).

    I do think that, given the treacherous state of our streets (and i commute out on the westside on suburban arterials), we’re not asking too much of an individual to avoid headphones while making their way through the convoluted mess of streets not designed for bicycles in the first place. I admit that I’ve been boneheaded enough to listen to headphones while biking at an earlier age, and I don’t think legislating against this really unsafe act in any way represents the tyrannical, autotopic government smacking down on the Pure, Self Righteous Cyclist.

    Just curious (because I’ve yet to read anything), does any data exist about the safety implications of biking with headphones? At the very least, I think a study about the number of accidents related to inability to hear traffic is warranted.

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    • SD January 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm

      Can you describe an instance where a cyclist needs to hear in order to be safe?

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      • craig January 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm

        SD, See my post above. Cyclists who can’t hear cannot receive or react to audible warnings from those who would pass.

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        • SD January 19, 2011 at 7:38 pm

          Thanks, I saw your post.
          I don’t feel like this is a situation where hearing is necessary.
          If cyclists ride to the right and keep their line they do not need to hear audible warnings. If you are passing someone, you should expect and be prepared that they may be startled and veer toward you when you pass. If this is too dangerous, slow down and do not pass until there is adequate space. Do you wait for them to say OK? Do you know if they have heard you? How often has your audible warning startled someone cauising them to swerve? This debate is a distraction from real safe riding practices.
          Anyone veering to the left or leaving their “line” should always look over their shoulder for visual confirmation. I imagine that this includes the times that you have been hit by a passing cyclist.
          Headphones are such an insignificant part of overall bike safety and not worth legislation.
          The only traction this law has is based on the fact that it targets a small fraction of people and benefits from misperceptions of a lot of people.

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    • Steve January 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      Funny. Nice link, Jonathan. I must say bikeportland commenters are a heck of a lot more coherent on this subject!

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  • Roland January 18, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    You darn cyclists! First you want to use the roads unmolested. NOW you want to wear headphones unmolested. Make up your minds!

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  • nothstine January 18, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Not sure I feel about the proposed earbud law, although the point about it being the first law of its sort for bicycles does worry me a little. Mostly, I suppose I’m just puzzled: Being able to hear traffic around me [i.e., w/o earbuds] is one of the few edges I have as a cyclist on the street with cars.

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  • Chris January 19, 2011 at 12:30 am

    As an avid, commuting cyclist, I agree with the measure. I feel that one of our advantages in navigating the roads safely is our auditory acuity. The reality is that we are always going to share the road with death monsters… ahem… I mean cars. 98% of us do not have a side mirror, and 100% of us do not have a rear-view mirror. We should not impair the one sense (even at low-volume) that gives us a distinct advantage over a glass-plastic-steel-encased automobile. I rode my bike a few times with ear buds, and I have come to the conclusion that it is a bad idea.

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  • todd January 19, 2011 at 1:13 am

    Amazing how many people are sharing their opinion on the question “is it a good idea to wear headphones in my typical riding conditions?” instead of the real one “should it be illegal for anybody in the state to exercise their judgment on this matter, ever?”

    Imagine riding all day on the broad shoulder of a nearly empty highway in eastern Oregon, with 10-mile sight lines, intersections many miles apart, and you have a mirror. Soft music is gonna kill you? Compare to rush hour downtown Salem, no mirror, loud music. Big difference. The law won’t discriminate. People can discriminate.

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    • eli bishop January 19, 2011 at 9:14 am


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  • Chris January 19, 2011 at 5:47 am

    Why is it safe to ride a motorcycle while wearing headphones, but not ride a bicycle? That’s what this law is saying.

    Change the wording from “bicycle” to “any vehicle” and it starts to make sense. The way it is now, downtown Portland is going to be invaded by masses of headphone-wearing unicyclists…..

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  • Paul Banbury January 19, 2011 at 6:02 am

    I don’t live in the States, but near where I live in England we’ve had similar discussions and debates about headphone wearing amongst cyclists. In the end, and I think this point has been made a few times already on this comment thread, the law cannot discriminate, but we, as cyclists – riders of mountain bikes or road bikes – should be bale to ascertain what’s right or wrong to a major degree.

    The problem with any legislation of this kind, is that it rarely solves an issue – take drink driving laws as an example. Whilst it may be illegal to drink and drive, most accidents are not caused by drink drivers, and many still drink and drive. The law is inept.

    Most accidents are caused by bad driving – not by breaking any specific law. Punishment should not be handed-out because someone drinks and drives, but that they drive dangerously – it’s a subtle difference, but places the emphasis on good driving, not on bad behavious or ‘habits’.

    Highlighting personal responsibility and self-awareness is a far stronger ‘deterrent’ than any law will ever be – the same goes for cyclists.

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    • Spiffy January 19, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      I pretty much agree with everything you just said…

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  • Mark Kenseth January 19, 2011 at 6:47 am

    I have a friend who rides his bicycle with ear plugs (foam on a string) in his ears to thwart excess sounds, and he’s doing just fine. In fact, maybe he’s less distracted.

    Are deaf people not allowed to ride bikes?

    Also, pedestrians (walking) with headphones on seem more oblivious than anyone. I’m constantly having to dodge (while walking) other pedestrians (walking) who are wearing headphones or talking on cellphones, and I don’t want to take that away from them (maybe a little). Automobiles are the dangerous ones.

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    • jim January 19, 2011 at 7:39 am

      perhaps they should not let pedestrians walk in the road when there is a sidewalk available

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  • dwainedibbly January 19, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Is there a law preventing blind people from riding bikes?

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    • rigormrtis January 19, 2011 at 2:37 pm

      Maybe when blind people start riding bikes you can make a law.

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  • Charlie January 19, 2011 at 7:57 am

    How about we take stereos out of cars! Or actually stop drivers from texting! before you take away music from those who have a hard ride/commute without the comforts of a car.

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  • Loren January 19, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I say if you rock a rearview mirror with your headphones, rock on.

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  • Joseph Rose January 19, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I ride with my iPhone ear buds inserted all the time. I don’t listen to music, but need them in place in case an editor or someone else calls while I’m riding. No need to stop and pull out my phone when I can just click the mic on my earbud wire and talk as I pedal. Hands-free and free to bike.
    Joseph Rose

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  • k. January 19, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Without posting an opinion one way or the other about the relative effectiveness of the idea, I do have to generally agree that the cycling community in general is loathe to be regulated while expecting just the opposite of motor vehicles. Might be food for thought for some……

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    • El Biciclero January 19, 2011 at 11:29 am

      …Except that this proposal specifically suggests we regulate bicycle operation in a way that motor vehicle operation is currently not limited.

      Here is the food for thought that I toss out to anyone who brings up the “cyclists don’t want to be regulated” refrain: Do you want to have to go through a permitting process and criminal background check before you can bring that new set of kitchen knives home from Macy’s? Why not? How about before you can purchase a baseball bat or a hammer? Knives, bats, and hammers clearly can be and have been used innumerable times as weapons–even to kill people–yet we require no registration, no permit, no background check. But we do require a little extra paperwork for gun purchases. How is that fair? Usually, people answer, “Yeah, but guns are so much more dangerous than….ooOOOHhhh.”

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    • are January 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm

      just as nonsmokers seek to create smoke-free spaces, but are loath to be regulated with respect to their conduct as nonsmokers, as such

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  • craig January 19, 2011 at 9:29 am

    I would like to see an additional law outlawing the use of headphones by **anybody** in traffic upon a roadway.

    But bikes vs. cars are a different animal than bikes vs. other bikes or persons on foot.

    Forgetting motorists for the moment…

    As a person who bikes daily in this city, I am regularly frustrated when I encounter people walking and cycling with headphones on.

    Oregon law–and common courtesy–dictates that I give an audible signal prior to passing someone on foot on a sidewalk or path; i.e., “ding! ding!”, “on your left!”. When it’s clear that my audible signal has been ignored, because it cannot be heard, I get a funny feeling in my gut that my safety has just been needlessly risked. People in motion sometimes move left or right without warning, and when that movement coincides with a passing bike, CRASH.

    I don’t know what the law states about passing another bike, but my instinct tells me that the same safety risks are present, but with heightened danger since both parties are in motion and speeds are likely to be higher.

    I’ve been hit on my bike more than once by a passing rider who failed to signal a warning that they were passing me, either on a path or while sharing a traffic lane.

    The proximity with which bikes pass each other, in my view, necessitates audible signaling. Audible signals are worthless when the person being passed cannot hear someone else’s “ding! ding!”, or “on your left!”.

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  • Rex Marx January 19, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Here is a copy of my message to the legislator:
    I am opposed to HB 2602.
    – When I ride my bicycle, I listen to talk radio podcast at low volume levels. I can hear the wind, and tire noise of cars without trouble. HB 2602 would take my ability to listen to talk radio when I ride while leaving the same right available to me while sitting in a car behind a wall of glass and steel.

    I find HB 2602 unnecessarily and unfairly targeting cyclist. In a 4,000 pound car, a citizen can simultaneously eat food, while talking on phone hands free of course), listening to the radio, and talking to a passenger while sitting behind a layer of sound insulation, glass, and steel.

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    • Michae F January 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm

      Excellent letter!

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  • John Landolfe January 19, 2011 at 10:19 am

    There is no scientific evidence to suggest any danger to wearing headphones while riding a bike. I’m just going to keep repeating this until someone actually points me to or conducts a real study.

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  • El Biciclero January 19, 2011 at 11:16 am

    The fact that this proposed law is targeted specifically at bicycle operation is just about re-dickin’ frickulous. If it is dangerous to wear headphones while cycling, then it is just as dangerous to wear them while walking, jogging–or DRIVING. By far the biggest danger out there is distracted DRIVERS, yet we are even trying to hedge on our already-weak cell phone use law, because it apparently causes too great a hardship for poor drivers who cannot refrain from talking and texting while driving. So, let’s put the onus on somebody else and let the poor drivers careen about in their oblivious haze of distraction, and put the blame on the victims of careless driving rather than on the careless drivers.

    A law such as this one would (intentionally or unintentionally) serve to release drivers from all responsibility if they happen to run over a cyclist with ear phones in. It wouldn’t matter whether they were even in use at the time. As a commenter above noted, “Oh, yes!! The cyclist I just ran over due to my inattention had headphones in!! I’m off the hook!” I have never once ridden with headphones, but just pulling my hat down over my ears on mornings like today reduces my hearing capacity (and introduces whooshy wind noise) as much or more than any earbud-type headphones would (I imagine).

    I agree with other posters who see through the thin veneer of pretending to be interested in safety. Although this would be a non-issue for me–I don’t ever plan on wearing headphones while riding–laws like this one, and proposals such as those for requiring registration, special “bike taxes”, banning certain people from riding, banning riding on certain roads, etc. are all punitive ideas coming from those that I can only assume are envious of cyclists and their choice and ability to use a cheap, clean, efficient, enjoyable mode of transport. These types want to make cycling as miserable and expensive as driving–many try just by by driving dangerously around cyclists–because they don’t see it as “fair”. They…crap. I could go on and on, as you can see, but I’ll just stop here. Full and complete stop with my foot down.

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  • h January 19, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Appears this bill will die itself eventually… but keep our eyes peeled anyway. Politicans can not be trusted.

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  • Kt January 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I am leery of proposed legislation that aims at one specific type of road user.

    My personal opinion on this issue: If you have to ride with your earbuds in, or ear-covering headphones, then either make sure the volume is low enough to hear traffic coming up behind you (cars, trucks, and voices from bike riders wanting to pass); only cover one ear (the non-traffic side ear); or don’t wear them.

    I agree that we should let people make their own decisions and take responsibility for their own decisions.

    I have commuted with one earbud in. Mostly, I commute without. As long as you hear me warning you of my impending pass, I don’t care if you wear them or not.

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  • Michae F January 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    People! Can we ban the blind from walking on the sidewalks unattended? Really, they could hurt themselves.

    I’m joking of course. This law is unnecessary.

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  • Lenny Anderson January 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Don’t the “Ds” have anything better to do than harass bicyclists? Laws to protect us from ourselves…i.e. “victimless crime”… should be very low on the legislature’s priority list if there at all. I hope this is just a joke. Cars kill, bikes don’t.

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  • drew January 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    “People on bicycles ask for a whole lot and then they say, ‘don’t regulate us”
    I dunno what planet that guy is from, but here in Oregon cyclists have most of the regulations to adhere to as any motorist. If he has his way, we will have an additional regulation that the motorist does not.
    It’s bad enough that those who choose not to drive (or drive very little) have to subsidize this who do.

    In 7 years of crossing the Sellwood bridge I only had one close call; with an elderly motorist whose sensory facuilties had obviously deteriorated. She didn’t need earbuds to be a bad driver.
    Limit the driving age to 75 if you want to legislate for the safety of the public.

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  • Spiffy January 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I’m of the theory that this shall not pass… I don’t ride with headphones because I like to listen to my environment… even when I (rarely) drive a car I keep the windows open a tad so I can hear around me…

    but hearing is not a requirement for driving any vehicle, just like having two hands isn’t a requirement, thus laws like this (and the cell phone ban) should never even get to this written and published stage…

    so wear headphones if you want… or earplugs… or a poodle…

    I don’t care about what’s in your ears, and neither should the government…

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    • El Biciclero January 19, 2011 at 2:52 pm

      “even when I (rarely) drive a car I keep the windows open a tad so I can hear around me…”

      Heh. This is interesting because I tend to have a general feeling of uneasiness while driving, and I realized a few months ago that it was mostly due to the fact that I can’t hear the outside very well when I am in my car.

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  • GlowBoy January 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Doesn’t Oregon law already ban headphone use by motor vehicle operators? Under our law, bicycles are motor vehicles and are covered by all motor vehicle laws – with specific exceptions, of course.

    Personally, I can’t imagine riding with any device that muffles the sounds of the outside world, but for the most part riding with headphones doesn’t pose a significant danger to others. I oppose mandates (including helmet and seatbelt laws) that protect adults from their own stupidity. If wearing ‘phones while riding posed a significant danger to others I’d be all for banning it, but I don’t think that’s the case.

    The other problem I have (at least with the earlier version of the bill) is that it would go beyond banning headphones. I commute with a small radio attached to my backpack strap. Unlike headphones it doesn’t diminish ambient sounds, and it’s probably less distracting than a car radio, but it would still be illegal.

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  • felix January 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    The ticket is $45 if you only have 1 ear bud in.

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  • Jonathan Gordon January 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    What bothers me about both of these bills is it seems the motivation behind them is nothing more than a hunch, a stray thought that occurred to the legislators on a lazy morning. Which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing as a start. But then it seems that rather than doing any further research, they up and wrote them some legislation. Really? Is that how it works?

    What about asking an aide/intern to do some research? Or doing some yourself. Like, finding out if this hunch you have is really a problem? How many recorded cases are there of people being injured because someone was riding a bicycle with headphones on? Doesn’t that matter? How would you even know if your legislation was effective without a decent quantitative picture of the problem you’re trying to solve?

    Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, please someone tell me there are actual grownups in charge of our state legislature that create legislation based on more than just a hunch. That there’s a logical process that is followed beyond just throwing things at walls and seeing what sticks. That conversations get started in more productive ways than drafting a proto-bill, running it up the flagpole and seeing if anyone salutes. Because the past two examples that have been posted here on Bikeportland are depressing me to all hell.

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  • random_rider January 19, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    … I rode my bike a few times with ear buds, and I have come to the conclusion that it is a bad idea.

    Then don’t.

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  • Seth Alford January 19, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    I was ambivalent about this proposal. Because when riding in a group, or passing someone else on a bicycle, it’s nice to be able to say, “on your left”, “watch out for the pothole”, or even a simple “good morning” and not have to shout over the sound of their headphones in order to have the other person hear you.

    Then I did a little googling on bikeportland.org. I’m definitely opposed to this legislation now. This is the same Michael Schaufler that co-sponsored the mandatory bicycle registration bill in 2009, according to Jonathan’s postings from 2009, such as http://bikeportland.org/2009/03/06/mandatory-bike-registration-bill-introduced-in-salem-15779

    Jonathan reported that the other legislators sponsoring of the 2009 proposal were Rep. Wayne Krieger (R-Gold Beach), Rep. Sal Esquivel (R-Medford), and Rep. Bill Garrard (R-Klamath Falls).

    All 4 of these representatives are listed currently at http://www.leg.state.or.us/house/ Which means all 4 got re-elected.

    That all 4 of these representatives managed to get themselves re-elected with hardly a peep from the BTA once again shows how ineffective the BTA is. Yes, I know, the BTA is a 501(c)(3) and they can’t explicitly endorse candidates. But, that doesn’t prevent them from simply re-stating the fact that these legislators sponsored the the possibly worst anti-bicycling legislation of the 2009 session.

    I’m also curious about why Jonathan has not pointed out what Schaufler has done in the past. Was this a test for us to see if we would remember Schaufler’s name from the last time?

    When Schaufler says that he’s getting negative reactions to his proposal from bicyclists, understand that he’s looking at things through the lense of his previous (and much deserved) negative reactions that he got the last time he sponsored anti-bicycle legislation.

    The reasons presented by other commenters above are good enough to oppose this legislation. Additionally, that Schaufler is sponsoring this is also good enough reason for me to oppose it. I strongly suggest that you write to Schaufler AND your representative and voice your opposition to this.

    Democrats like Greenlick and Schaufler (and at least a half dozen others I could name, only some of whom are from Oregon) make me wonder why I’m a Democrat.

    Any real Democrats in Happy Valley willing to run in the primary against Schaufler in 2012?

    Anyone know of a way to set up a campaign fund for the prospective not-Schaufler Democratic nominee for 2012 in Oregon House District 48? Act Blue will let you set up a fund for a prospective Democratic nominee in a district. But I don’t think that Act Blue will let you set up a Democratic-nominee-except-for-the-Democratic-incumbent fund.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 19, 2011 at 8:12 pm


      Seth Alford

      I’m also curious about why Jonathan has not pointed out what Schaufler has done in the past. Was this a test for us to see if we would remember Schaufler’s name from the last time?

      Seth. Come on. I don’t play games like that. I don’t have time for games and I don’t always have time to refer and link back to past stories. I also hold a very high opinion of my readers’ intelligence and I assume that folks — just like you proved with you quick search of the archives — can easily figure this stuff out on their own. Thanks for pointing out more on Schaufler. FWIW, I just went back and added a mention of his involvement w/ the mandatory registration bill into the main story.

      Hope to see you at the SW Get Together on 1/26. Cheers.

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  • 007 January 19, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    We have too many laws already which is why I do not want the legislature to meet every year. However, I do wish cyclists would “hang up and ride” and believe we should not wear headphones/earbuds. Look how many cyclists without headphones don’t even hear you say “on your left.” I think we could police ourselves if we spoke up now and then when a cyclist does something stupid that could endanger any of us.

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  • was carless in pdx January 20, 2011 at 12:52 am

    I think its generally stupid, but shouldn’t be illegal. I only bike with headphones on the Springwater Trail, however, and with low volume. I won’t bike on streets typically with headphones.

    Besides, Portland’s weather can easily ruin a set with the rain.

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  • Paul Tay January 20, 2011 at 4:00 am

    I use 27 dB earplugs to block out the constant raging noise from motor vehicles. Like my helmet and rear view, I don’t leave home without them. The constant din shuts down the ears from differentiating out the really dangerous noises. Sight is the more reliable sense.

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  • deborah January 20, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I’m upset at the lack of enforcement of the cellphone law. While I agree that it’s annoying to pass another bicyclist that can’t hear you when you verbally call out “On your left” as you try to pass them – I don’t think it’s something that requires law enforcemcent attention.

    Attention IS needed to enforce the cellphone law and the inattentive car drivers that I see shirking it every day. We really need to focus our attention on what will create the safest roads. An inattentive biker that is wearing headphones is probably not going to cause anyone any harm. Car driving cellphone users are clearly a detriment to the roads.

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  • Andy January 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    This thing HB2602 appears to be anti-bike disguised as a safety law…but what are you gonna do? The balance of power in government is with car-first politicians and law enforcement…

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  • adam January 22, 2011 at 8:29 am

    I read the mercury the other day and they wrote that there is a house bill to “study the idea of a statewide bike licence.” is that a joke?

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  • Tess January 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    What a ridiculous law. Nothing personal, but I’m glad I’m not in Portland. I can’t imagine not being able to bike on those warm summer and breezy autumn days without a fitting tune surging through my ears. The nanny state needs to back off.

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  • Hot Rod January 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

    It would seem that our legislators have never heard the term “Nanny State”. Nor have they read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. I would suggest they read it – it pretty much tells the story of the USA.

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  • money talks January 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    You can be totally deaf and have a drivers license…

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  • tom February 5, 2011 at 11:02 am

    On a highway ???

    >> would create a new traffic violation for “unsafe operation of a bicycle” if a person “operates a bicycle on a highway while wearing a listening device that is capable of receiving telephonic communication, radio broadcasts or recorded sounds.” The offense would come with a maximum fine of $90.

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    • El Biciclero February 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm

      Legal definition of “highway” means “any road”. “Freeways” are what you are thinking of.

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  • beelnite February 10, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Marcus Griffith
    Want to improve bicycle safety on the cyclists end? Increase the light requirements.

    I don’t agree completely. If a person wants to go “Ninja” that should be their perogative. It’s not the absence of lights or silly yellow jackets that’s the problem. It’s the behaviour of the individual – riding without lights on busy streets and EXPECTING people to see you is just dumb. But lurking, creeping through the hood – on alert and avoiding hazards (like drunk drivers taking the bike route to avoid police detection -ha!) that’s a person’s choice and right. I don’t think we need to mandate lights and yellow jackets.

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  • Michael Dawson October 28, 2014 at 11:28 am

    In my view, even in a perfect world of hugely curtailed automobile use, it would still make eminent sense to ban headphones. Riding while ocking out is a distraction, and seems inherently negligent to me. Why would you want to hurt somebody’s kid for this reason?

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