Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 2nd, 2011 at 12:29 pm
House Bill 2602 (text), which would create a new law to prohibit the use of headphones while operating a bicycle, has just been scheduled for a public hearing. The bill is on the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee for Thursday, February 10th at 1:00 pm.
We took a closer look at the bill a few weeks ago and judging from comments on that story and from emails I’ve seen sent to the bill’s chief sponsor, Representative Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley), my sense is that most people are against it in its current form. Many people agree that headphones blaring while riding is not a smart idea, but the notion of creating a new law outlawing the practice hasn’t been well-received.
Schaufler told me earlier this month that his impetus for the bill came out of safety concerns. “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.”
Here’s a sampling of feedback we’ve received about the bill:
“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.”
“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 driver, 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.”
“What concerns me most about HB2602 is its exclusive focus on one mode of transportation, in this case bicycling. I believe this approach to increasing safety is counter-productive to public dialogue. It is divisive and channels us down a very unproductive line of public discourse that divides people into camps based on their mode choice- something that for a growing number of people change depending on the day of the week! What a silly thing to allow to separate us?! Especially when we all have so much to gain by promoting a more diverse transportation system that gives everyone more choice about how to get around.”
“… the law should define and prosecute distracted driving, and not reference a particular technology. Thanks to modern soundproofing, motorists are effectively deaf – with or without headphones. In 5-10 years, we’ll be able to use “inductive headphones” to directly stimulate nerves in the ear canal without a visible earphone bud. This bill won’t address that, since it’s addressing a symptom and not the problem itself.”
Another interesting point we’ve heard is that if this law passes, will it then make sense to prohibit deaf people from operating a bicycle?
In addition to Schaufler, other members of the House Judiciary Committee include Representatives Jeff Barker, Wayne Krieger, Chris Garrett, Wally Hicks, Mary Nolan, Andy Olson, Carolyn Tomei, Matt Wand and Gene Whisnant. See the full committee roster here and stay tuned for more coverage.
— See all our 2011 legislative session coverage here.