Riding with headphones – illegal, immoral or irrelevant?

I’ve had three incidents in the past month that have got me thinking about my bike riding etiquette. Twice in the past couple months friends have stopped me as I took headphones out of my ears to tut-tut me on riding while listening to music. This afternoon, on my way home from a doctors appointment, a self-identified off-duty RCMP officer instructed me (to her credit, in a kindly way) that riding with headphone on was illegal and she had pulled over dozens of people for impaired riding.

The bike shop guys I asked later in the day confirmed it was a contravention of the BC Motor Vehicle Act. Unfortunately, my legal prowess is limited and after a quick search of the Act, I wasn’t able to discover any evidence to confirm this is the case. Though I’ve yet to find the precise legal wording one thing I have found is that in all my time riding, I’ve never run into troubles with a police officer for riding with headphones (despite being pulled over several times for other infractions). What’s most striking is that if it is actually a law, it’s one of the most ignored ones in history. Sitting at the Union St Cafe at the corner of Union and Hawkes, it’s hard to find a cyclist (particularly during the morning commute) who isn’t listening to tunes on a small portable i-phone or music player.  For me it begs the question of the relevance of such a rule. Is this another road rule that everyone (including the cops ignores) or is it something we all really should be paying attention to?

Fun tech friend or public enemy #1?

On the one hand, I understand how listening to music at a moderate volume can a) distract you from your environment and b) take away from your peripheral hearing. But is that really so different from the car radio (particularly at a high volume)? If you’re hands free and you are alert and listening to a music at a low volume, is this really so bad? And if this is the case, what about joggers? Should they not be held to the same standard?

What is most frustrating about this issue is that this prohibition isn’t really clear to cyclists (or anyone for that matter). It’s hard to find evidence one way or another on the ICBC website and there certainly seems to be a gap in public education around all matters of proper riding ediquette (apparently it’s also illegal to ride without a bell – really!?). In any event, if the rule isn’t being enforced, is it really a good rule to have? Practice seems to be very different from principle on this issue.

Ian Abbott – The Medical Alternative

Who are you?

Who am I? Ian Ashley Abbott. I’m a believer in the value of alternative health care and how it can build community. Physical health care comes down to lifestyle and diet and mental health comes down to support from family and friends. [Editor's note: Ian has the kind of body and soul that turns heads (even mine) and his favourite colour is West Coast Forest Green.]

I’ll add that my passion is trying to change peoples perception about ‘alternative medicine’. Empowering people, by making them realize that the keys to better health are within their grasp, and giving them the tools to make it happen. It’s WAY more cost effective and when you understand better how your body works you might just appreciate it a bit more.

What do you do for fun?

I ride my bicycle and spend many hours exploring the back roads and trails of Victoria. From time to time, I like to read articles from your wife [Editor's note: my wife is the lovely and talented Michelle Horn] that discredit the medical establishment.

What is your favourite community and why?

(Editor’s Note: Ian’s favourite community might be the I-Phone community, because he’s not listening to this question.)

That’s a very big question. I osscilate between the people that quietly do things in the trenches and the jerky people who shout and spit on hummers. The best place is somewhere in between, where people combine humility, diligence and commitment to make communities better. Spitting on hummers might be “the right thing to do,” but it doesn’t build community. It divides it.

I like these two poles because it was how I was brought up – one of my parents was quiet

I also love the community of musicians and artists who use their public profile to initiate change.

What is your superpower?

Acupuncture. And active listening (sans I-phone).

[Editor's note: my sister - Ian's special lady - just said he has "magic hands" and I stopped this conversation before it happened].

My other other superpower is building bikes out of as much carbon fibre as possible.

How do you use it to build community?

I once turned a breach baby with one needle. His magic hands help people get rid of aches and pains – therapeutic use only.

My Three Favourite Things About Ian Abbott Are…

1. Conversational Currency. Mr. Abbott is not a one-dimensional man. His informed contributions to any discussion run the gamut of sensation; from international development to back pain to food to carbon fibre…mostly as part of bicycles…sometimes in food.

2. He likes my mom! Well, everyone likes Janet Horn, really. But Ian’s affection for her tangential giggling is just pretty darn nice.

3. Holistic Wellness. Our health and well being has more to do with the communities that support our lives and the things we put in our bodies and the way our bodies move from place to place than it does with reactively curing things that we did to ourselves by behaving unsustainably. In order to get my holistic-point across, I wrote the previous ideas in one, big, run-on, holistic sentence.

- As told by John Horn