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Salem watch: Headphone bill to get public hearing

Posted by on February 2nd, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Rep. Mike Schaufler proposed the bill.

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.

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EdeileenAnne Hawleyroguewrenchmiddle of the road guy Recent comment authors
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Paul Manson
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I like the comment that this energy should be for all modes to reduce distracted or impaired operations. (Cars, bikes, buses, etc.)

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

“Headphone bill to get public hearing”

Best headline of the day.

Maybe that should be the criteria for citation: if the public can hear your headphones, you get a bill.

Andy
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Andy

Instead of reflexively opposing any laws imposed on bicyclists, why don’t we just take the position that any restriction on the use of earbuds should be applicable to all users of streets and highways?

I have personally witnessed bicyclists and runners wearing earphones endangering not only themselves but other road users. Drivers may swerve to avoid them.

Do you recall this death as a direct result?
http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2010/11/woman_jogger_killed_in_milton-freewater.html

Did I miss it? Again?
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Did I miss it? Again?

Andy-
I am not sure that you can say that her death was the direct result of the use of earphones. She was running against traffic and stepped out in front of an on-coming car. I don’t see how earbuds would have impeded her sight.
If it was too dark, then why weren’t the car headlights on?

There are so many unanswered questions in this story, I find it difficult to assign blame on the use of headphones.

Atbman
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Atbman

The man is clearly Di Minted

rigormrtis
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rigormrtis

God I hope this passes…..just to hear about the “persecution” here.

matt
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matt

i’m open to this and am interested to see where the discussion around the bill goes. i ride daily and go back and forth on the whole headphone issue.

i agree with what paul said above…

“this energy should be for all modes to reduce distracted or impaired operations. (Cars, bikes, buses, etc.)”

…but am happy to see those come after since this is the first thing up for discussion and the only legislative concept that has been introduced.

at the end of the day – if this save even just one cyclist from life changing/ending injury then i’ll be supportive. i’ll keep my fingers crossed that there is good, civil, and thoughtful discussion around the bill down in salem.

Ben
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Ben

How about some empirical testing? Have someone in a car (windows rolled up, stereo on) and someone on a bike with headphones on both try to hear a sound from a set distance. I can’t believe that someone thinks that it’s fine to drive a car which already impairs your sight and hearing, but that biking with headphones is a danger. Nutty.

Mc
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Mc

Let them pass it. I’ll simply just not comply. I use my device to listen to audiobooks and podcast at a reasonable level. I can hear the traffic, other people and the stereos of people in cars. It also makes my rides more enjoyable and less dull, if I didn’t have it I would drive more. But because some people think it seems dangerous, we’re going to play nanny. Ok fine, good luck with that. Ticket me, I can pay it or I’ll drive and put on my studded tires. Good work government.

RoadShare
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RoadShare

I agree that it doesn’t make sense to single out cyclists when it comes to rules of the road. If something is going to be allowed or denied, it should be applied to all modes of transportation, be it banning the use of earbuds when riding/driving or requiring everyone to stop at stop signs.

middle of the road guy
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middle of the road guy

I agree with that. No good can come from wearing them.

matt picio
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$5 says Rep. Wayne Krieger (R- Gold Beach) supports this bill. Any takers?

roguewrench
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roguewrench

Shouldn’t a law have some research behind it. I find is very disturbing that a law maker can just walk down the street and say I do not like this or that and create a bill and try to get this passed in to a law. I know it take more to get it passed but just the willy nilly of it all makes me cringe.

Thank you Bike Portland for always looking out for us cyclist.

Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley
eileen
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eileen

does there have to be a law for EVERYTHING?

Ed
Guest

I’ve thought long and about this. I jog everyday with my headphone, and I commute by bike everyday with my headphone (except in the city, only in hillsboro roads). I could jog and bike without my headphone, but it will definitely make those two activities less enjoyable. I think Rep. Mike Schaufler should come and jog and bike with me for 2 weeks, and maybe he will understand why people wear headphones biking.

I agree, it is dangerous for the cyclist to wear headphone while biking, because a car could be honking and you wouldn’t hear the driver. You basically block out the surroundings, which is very dangerous in the busy city blocks.

But isn’t that the same problem with a lot of drivers? Plenty of car drivers have their window rolled up and volume turned up that they block out the surroundings. I personally think that is more dangerous than say a cyclist, because cars is more destructive and can kill almost anyone in sight.
I personally think this law is not going to stop anyone from wearing headphone while biking. Why not educate the cyclists and communities instead? Post up some signs (like those green box bike lane signs) and bring the issue up at community meetings or bike ride events. I would be more likely to not wear my headphone if I see Mr. Schaufler coming out to the community and express his concern to us personally, rather than from his car.

I bet he doesn’t even ride his bike, or does he even own a bike.