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Stupid cyclists – don’t be one of them!

By Sheila Ascroft

Is it me or are some cyclists just plain stupid?

There seems to be a street version of Russian roulette happening in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario. I’m afraid that it is endemic in all cities. With six cylinders in the barrel and only one bullet, some cyclists seem determined to narrow their odds considerably.

First, there is the cyclist who wear headphones while riding. Click.

Next is the headphone-wearing rider who also has no helmet. Click.

Thirdly, I thought it was just a rare case, but three sightings on different streets has me now believing otherwise. Cyclists who ride with headphones, no helmets AND no hands because he is texting! Like click the revolver three times and ask to be killed. These were not the “young and restless” who could be partially excused for their ignorance of safety or common sense; these were people old enough to know better. Gender was not a deciding factor either. I saw one woman on Elgin Street pumping her hands to the music, oblivious that her weaving bicycle was a traffic accident waiting to happen. Click.

But this morning I witnessed the ultimate stupid cyclist: headphones, no helmet, dark clothing at sunrise AND no lights. Click. Click.

One cylinder left. I assume there must be some logic somewhere in his brain that said go ride your bike as stupidly as possible today. Or maybe he still thinks that accidents only happen to “other people.”

I do understand that buying proper lights can be expensive, and good helmets are costly, but reflective tape is cheap. Common sense , although rare, is cheap too! And I know sometimes you just have to get somewhere very early (or late) that’s faster on a bike than waiting for a bus. There are extentuating circumstances … but the dark shirt and pants? The lack of reflectability?

I am not pro-cars and anti-bicycles. Actually, just the opposite. I want to be able to ride more, see more cyclists claiming the roads that our tax dollars paved, but I don’t want to be out there with you riding with you who has no helmet and no brains. You are a danger to everyone including yourself.

If you are reading this, you most likely are not stupid and are committed to riding safely. However, you might know someone else though who needs a reminder that cycling demands a certain self-responsibility. Pass it on.

9 comments to Stupid cyclists – don’t be one of them!

  • I live in Africa, and never cease to be astounded at the cyclists’ indifference, disregard, contempt for (take your pick) their surroundings and sense of their own indestructibility. They seem to be not only disconnected, but on some kind of a “high”.

  • mplo

    I have to disagree with you, Janice in GA. Plenty of people either die or become permanently and severely incapacitated as a consequence of bicycling without a helmet and take a bad fall. Helmets can and do save lives. Stop kidding yourself.

  • Bo

    Hmm, the way I see it, riding without headphones won’t kill you, but riding with them might. Where I ride it’s the equivelant of a 200 dollar fine if the cops decide to stop you for riding while wearing headphones, using a cell phone in any way, or carrying an umbrella while riding. Might want to check your area’s by-laws on headphones.

  • Janice in GA

    I respect that you believe it’s impossible to wear headphones and still hear what’s going on around you.

    I disagree. I also actually find sight more important in staying aware of what’s around me than sound. I have a rear view mirror on bike bike and use it assiduously.

    With respect, I reject your notion that I am being irresponsible.

  • Kelly

    Helmets obviously are the best way to go, especially when crazy drivers could hit you at 50km/h in the core. Headphones however do not necessarily mean you are not listening to your surroundings, the noise on the street is pretty loud so its really not a challenge to hear what is going on and especially if you are consistently doing shoulder checks. Plus, background music can help you focus and filter out the little distractions. By your logic Sheila nobody on the road (divers and pedestrians included) should not listen to anything while on the road…good luck with that.

  • Carolyn

    As an older avid biker, and a survivor of several bad crashes, I would not ride around the block without a helmet. I have crashed without a helmet and with, and the results of each spoke volumes about the benefits of a helmet. It took me weeks to get over the concussion I sustained when I was without the helmet, and only a day or so to recover from the accident where I also hit my head which was helmeted.

  • Janice in GA

    Oddly enough, many people in Europe and the U.S. ride without helmets and live to tell the tale. Helmet wearing really isn’t a very good touchstone for cycling safely.

    I wear a helmet, but I do unapologetically ride with headphones. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

    • Sheila

      Yes, the helmet debate rages on. However, from personal experience, I know helmets can save lives.
      As for you wearing headphones, how can you hear the traffic – both vehicles and other cyclists or runners? It doesn;t matter what you listen to, it is simply that you are not listening to your surroundings and therefore are acting irrespeonsibly on a bike.

      • Melissa

        Are drivers irresponsible when they are listening to the radio? Its kinda the same thing. Most ear buds arent sound cancelling so they allow the rider to listen to several things at once. Are you saying that brains on a bicycle (versus in a car) can’t multitask? Or maybe that their vulnerbility should hold them to a higher standard.

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