Bike Whispers

I’ve stopped my long bike commute home because it is now too dark when I leave work to ride on busy streets. Even with blinky lights. I will continue to take the bike to and from light rail, but I will miss the rush from that nine mile ride until we Spring Forward.

In Slate’s, Not Right in the Head, Josh Levin makes an argument for not wearing headphones while cycling:

In the interest of science, I strapped on my over-ear headphones before a recent morning ride to the office. Listening to music at medium volume didn’t hamper my ability to navigate the road in front of me. I did lose all sense of the world behind me. The distant hum of a car closing in from a half-block away, the rusty chain of a bike inching up on my back wheel — these sorts of aural warnings couldn’t overpower the thrum of mid-’90s guitar-based rock. I also became disconnected from my own ride. Rather than propelling a machine with creaky moving parts, I was sitting atop a soundless chariot. It was a sensation I’d never had before: feeling like a passenger in a one-man vehicle.

I wouldn’t dream of wearing headphones while cycling. I see a few cyclists with headphones, and I even see some that are texting. One guy was reading his PDA while coasting downhill on the very bumpy section of Falls Road. I prefer to be as aware as possible on the road. When considering whether to dodge around a storm drain, it is good to know if a car is right behind you.

I don’t think I have exceptional hearing, but I can hear even a hybrid in EV mode coming up behind me from the crunch of gravel beneath the wheels, and the whoosh of leaves and air as it moves. That isn’t information I’m going to give up to make the time go by faster.


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