My wife was T-boned by some idiot cyclist jamming out to music in his own little world. She screamed at him while slamming on her brakes, but of course he didn't hear her. As she was lying on the pavement with a cracked frame he took off his headphones, said 'what?' and rode away, leaving her on the ground.
Beware, iPod zombie cyclists are on the rise
WATCH out for the iPod zombies. Cyclists distracted by music blaring in their ears have become the latest menace on Britain’s roads.
The fashion for cyclists to wear earphones on crowded city streets is being held partly responsible for the recent upsurge in cycling injuries and deaths, as well as collisions with pedestrians.
Road safety groups are alarmed at the practice and this weekend Edmund King, the president of the AA, called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to launch a campaign warning cyclists of the risk. The number of urban cyclists has grown so sharply that safety groups say the risky behaviour of a minority can cause serious problems.
The latest DfT figures show that 820 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in the three months to June, a 19% rise on the same period in 2008. It is not known how many of these cases were caused by people listening to music because the DfT and the police do not record the information.
However, many cyclists believe the problem is increasing. Internet cycling forums are full of heated exchanges between indignant cyclists and seething motorists, railing against the “erratic behaviour” and “breathtaking stupidity” of riders who career through the traffic, sporting the telltale white wires of an iPod.
“If cyclists had to take a test, like all other road users do, and pay insurance, then perhaps there would be a lot less idiots riding their bikes, wearing their iPod or mobile phone earphones and expecting everyone else to not only give way to them but to also read their minds as to their next action,” said one blogger after the death of a London cyclist last week.
Another said that “iPod zombies are a menace. I saw a bus clip one of them the other day in Victoria who was oblivious to anything around him.”
This weekend Nicholas Gardiner, an Oxfordshire coroner, spoke out about the risks of riding with iPods, saying that cyclists’ careless attitude had to be challenged. “Frankly I find it quite frightening the things cyclists do,” he said. “They ought to take a minimum amount of care over their safety. It seems to me ridiculous to deprive yourself of what is the second most important of your senses.”
Last year he recorded a verdict of accidental death when Abigail Haythorne, 17, died after pulling out into an oncoming car. She had an MP3 player in her pocket, and her earphones tucked inside her neck scarf, and he said it was possible she was wearing them when she was struck by the car.
Pedestrians, too, have fallen victim to cyclists listening to music and apparently oblivious to those around them. In June, a six-year-old girl from Wallasey, Merseyside, suffered serious injuries after she was mown down on the pavement by an iPod-wearing cyclist who didn’t even stop to help her, according to witnesses. The girl underwent hours of surgery to reconstruct her shattered leg.
The issue of risky behaviour by cyclists has become a more pressing issue for motorists because ministers are considering whether to make them liable for crashes, even if they were not at fault.
Youth for Road Safety, a new group, is to launch a campaign called Tune into Traffic under the slogan “Your earphones could kill you”.
Manpreet Darroch, who is leading the campaign, said: “It’s a serious problem which is only going to get worse as the number of cyclists increases — lots of people are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. People don’t realise how dangerous listening to music is on the roads — whether pedestrian or cyclist. It takes one of your key senses away. People shouldn’t do it.
“You can legislate until you are blue in the face. On the issue of iPods we just need to raise awareness.”
However CTC, the national cycling group, argues that people should be left to make their own judgments. “We encourage deaf people to cycle so we don’t think it’s essential to hear traffic in order to ride,” said a spokeswoman. “You have to be sensible. The most important thing is that you look around you all the time — especially over your shoulder.”
There is currently no legislation in place to govern either the use of music players or the wearing of helmets on the road, but cyclists can be prosecuted for dangerous riding — an offence that attracts a maximum penalty of £2,500.
The police claim to be getting tougher on cycling offences and Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has promised “complete zero tolerance of cyclists who break the rules”. However, David Cameron, the Tory leader, last year rode unpunished through red lights in London.
Johnson plans to give even greater leeway to cyclists, to encourage people to switch to one of the greenest forms of transport. He is studying the possibility of allowing cyclists to shoot red lights on left turns at a junction.
Last week King called on the DfT to address the iPod issue. “They’re meant to be mobile, but if you are cycling, you need all your senses about you.”