22 October 2010

Legal Update -- Earphones Banned by Prefectures; Bike Lanes in Our Future?

From this Monday's Daily Yomiuri:


Still "no statistics available" but one evolutionarily challenged student rides in front of a train ....

In other news, for Japanese readers, take a look at this item from Yahoo Japan news that a colleague forwarded to me -- a significant survey that concludes bike lanes of at least 1.5 meters width could be added to 6600 kilometers (out of 8100 kilometers) along 80% of major roads in Japan included in the study, significantly reducing the problems of bicycles commingling with pedestrians or cars and making life safer for all concerned.  Currently there are only 178 km of bike lanes.  The article notes that the number of bicycle/pedestrian accidents has increased by 3.7x in the past 10 years.

On my commute in to work on Tuesday, where Komazawa Dori crosses Yamate Dori, just below Nakameguro Station, I counted 15 bicycles waiting at the red light to cross Yamate Dori and head up toward Daikanyama/Ebisu -- nearly all commuters, mostly in their 20s and 30s, men and women.

4 comments:

Yair said...

The university student failed to notice an approaching train because of his earphones???? Give me a break...

Anonymous said...

A few things:

If riding with headphones is to be banned, I propose that car stereos also be banned. This is reasonable. Modern cars also have sound proofing to keep out the noise of fellow cars. I could be unreasonable and also suggest that this, along with windows, also be banned. The same justification holds - drivers cannot hear what is going on. Cyclists at least can still see what is going on around them.

Second point:

I personally use headphones while cycling to listen to radio talkback. The sound is no louder than someone beside you talking. Curtailing that is like restricting free speech. If that is going to be banned, then people in cars should be banned from talking to the driver.

Then we come to the statistics of increases in bicycle/pedestrian accidents. There are many explanations for this, not least of which is the fact that current "best practices" road design appears to be (1) increasing the speed of automobile traffic flow, and (2) forcing everyone else onto the footpath. In these circumstances, of COURSE there are going to be more accidents between bicycles and pedestrians.

Finally, how are you supposed to "hear" a pedestrian coming anyway? Is a pedestrian going to come up behind you suddenly when you are on a bicycle?? Are you going to hear them coming around a corner? If you are relying on your hearing to avoid accident with pedestrians, you are not going to be very successful. One must anticipate pedestrians and ride accordingly. That is the only way to avoid an accidents with pedestrians - riding safely.

No.no.no. This has nothing to do with pedestrians. Ultimately, the only people who will "benefit" from this kind of rule are automobile drivers, particularly ones who hate that cyclists can use headphones to ignore drivers attempts to antagonise or intimidate cyclists (this does not mean that we cannot hear them). Only a fool would blast music in headphones while cycling, and as you say they are probably evolutionarily challenged. Forcing them to remove the headphones unfortunately will not make them any safer with pedestrians. It may save them from being hit by a car, or more likely, from getting into a fight with a driver, but even then, we are seeing more and more electric vehicles on the road, and none of us should not be relying on our sense of hearing at all anyway. From my own experience, I have been hit by a motorcycle who came around a corner because he did not "hear" anything coming. No - don't rely on hearing. It is really very simple - just ride/drive safely (for God's sake!).

We can all welcome bike lanes of course - if they are made properly (which is a big "if" unfortunately).

Anonymous said...

Actually, forcing cyclists to remove headphones is more likely to get them INTO fights with drivers than out.

David L. said...

I also listen to news podcasts at relatively low volume and use earbuds that let in the surrounding noise, and I agree with much of what "anonymous" has posted.

But just want to point out that no one is suggesting a connection between the 3.7x increase in accidents and earphones. The 3.7x increase in accidents is cited in the article about the potential for bike lanes and the need to separate cars, bikes and pedestrians -- nothing wrong with that, in theory, though the devil is in the details.