Boris Johnson wants to ban cyclists from wearing headphones. Most would agree that the sense of hearing is important on busy urban streets. I rank it below these other senses:
The last couple of weeks are enough to make any cyclist go a little wobbly, but resist the urge to grasp for illusory solutions. Music doesn’t kill people, inattentive motorists do. Being in the wrong blind spot at the wrong time does. Our auto-centric culture doesn’t help; penalties which barely acknowledge the loss of a human life because the human happened to be riding a bike are accomplices after the fact. The sense of balance – equilibrioception, if like me you’re learning a new word every day – resides chiefly in the ears. It is not destroyed by the stuff that comes out of an iPod, but has been known to be affected by the anguished cries of nannies.
While there has literally been blood on the streets, this isn’t war, as some hyperbolic dispatches suggest. I cycle in London often and have been doing so since the 90s when I discovered, as have so many before me, that it is the best way to navigate and appreciate the cityscape. The only time a flak jacket might come in handy is to defend myself against those who take aim at my freedom to assess risk for myself and who don’t think anybody can safely carry a tune.
Forget the most eye-straining safety vest. A cyclist is never more visible to a motorist than when breaking the law: an ambassador of bad will. Just something to consider the next time you feel the urge to blow a light simply because you can, or because another cyclist broke the taboo at the intersection by doing it first. Diplomatic immunity only applies if that head start is going to make you safer.
This is perhaps the most uncommon sense.
Don’t have a zero tolerance policy for errors. The mistake you forgive might be the one you make down the road. Keep calm, carry on, and earn Karma points – better than Nectar points because they might save you from being a cow or white flan man (not a big fan of flan here) next time around.
Having a sense of direction helps because it becomes easy to see misdirection. Those of us who want to bring rhythm to our ride are an “absolute scourge” and our behaviour must be banned? This would make us safer than taking Chris Boardman’s suggestion to ban lorries at peak times? This would do anything at all other than create an easy win for the mayor followed by an enforcement nightmare? I’m already researching flesh-coloured earphones.
Boris for PM.