What's Worse? iPod Zombie Cyclists or Texting Car Killers?


Photo via chasingfun @ flickr.
Zombies are everywhere in pop culture these days, even having infiltrated TreeHugger. There are not a lot of zombies, however, riding the roads completely fixated on their iPods and thus being inattentive to road conditions, and inadvertently killing themselves. There can't be, because zombies, as most of us know, are already dead. And since they feast on human flesh, why would they be riding cycles and listening to iPods? Still, this article seems to infer that it is iPod listening that is leading to a rise in cycling deaths in Britain.

Photo poka059 via flickr.

Certainly there are horrific stories of cyclists killed - and though no proof is given in reports like this one, it could be plausibly inferred that an iPod blocked out some life-saving sound indications of trouble.

Yet in fact, this is putting the blame solely on the cyclist, when the actual statistics tend to indicated that it is "clumsy or inattentive drivers" that are to blame in 90% of bike-car accidents. And 90% of cyclist deaths are in connection with an accident with a motor vehicle, according to Ken Kifer's Bike Pages.

But before we go ahead and ban iPod listening while cycling, shouldn't we take a more comprehensive look at cell phone use and texting while driving, a seemingly grave threat not only to cyclists health, but also to pedestrians' well-being? Way back in 2002, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis calculated that 2,600 people die each year as a result of cell phone use during driving. In the UK a study last year found texting was more dangerous than drinking while driving.

And in fact, a North Carolina a law went into effect yesterday putting a $100 fine on texting while driving. A similar NC statute prohibiting mobile phone use is only in effect for teenagers and school bus drivers. Chicago has a law against mobile use while driving going back to 2005, and recently increased the penalty. Elizabeth at Bike Commuters says the National Safety Council is planning to lobby for a nationwide cell phone use ban.

It seems equally to be common sense to not text while driving as it is to not listen to an iPod while on a cycle needing to be attentive to traffic noises. One solution for cyclists would be to only keep one earplug in while on regular roads. Or how about the Slip - holds the ear buds away from the ears and keeps your ears warm at the same time.

However, recently it seems like the anti-cyclist rhetoric has lately cranked up a notch. Or is it simply that there are more people cycling and thus more chances for motorist-cyclist interactions? In Philadelphia, two pedestrian deaths caused by cyclists have turned the mood against cycling quite sour - bills have been proposed - one putting at $1,000 fine on riding a fixie bike. Another piece of legislation calls for increasing the fine for riding on the sidewalk from $10 to $300, while another puts the fine for riding while wearing headphones to $300. City Council is also proposing to register bikes. Is this the answer to cyclist-motorist-pedestrian tensions?

Read more about urban cycling at TreeHugger:
Man Gets 20 Days for Shooting Cyclist in the Head
Cyclists Cause Less Than 10% of Bike/Car Accidents
6 Ways to Defuse Anti-Cyclist Road Rage