Headphones on the bike trail?

W&OD Trail
Photo by ktylerconk, used under Creative Commons license

I’ve got a couple of weeks off of work – despite House Republicans’ best efforts, Congress has adjourned for the traditional August recess and things at the office are slow – so I hit the W&OD bike trail yesterday afternoon.

I got into riding thanks to an old roommate who was an avid outdoorsman and competitive cyclist. One of his safety tips for the W&OD trail is that you should never ride with an iPod on. Naturally, I ignored that bit of advice yesterday. I was only out for a relatively short trip – 20 miles, from my house to Reston and back – but I much prefer working out with a soundtrack.

Any of you who also read DCist will have seen some of their extensive comment threads on cycling in and around the city. This is one point, though, that I haven’t really seen addressed extensively. Is it kosher to ride/run/rollerblade with the music on while out on a bike trail?

Just about every jogger I saw yesterday had headphones on, though none of them seemed to have any problem hearing me when I passed. I’m not about to go out on the trail with tunes on a sunny Saturday afternoon when every yuppie with tight shorts in Northern Virginia will be out for a stroll, but aside from that, I say go for it. Just use your head – and, obviously, keep the volume at a reasonable level for those “on your left” calls. I can’t imagine that it’d be a good idea on the Capital Crescent trail in Bethesda, either, but maybe you Murrahlanders disagree.

And for goodness’ sake, please, stop at the stop signs!

3 Comments so far

  1. davidcooper on August 8th, 2008 @ 9:55 am

    Keep in mind that Virginia law prohibits the use of headphones in both ears while riding a bicycle.


  2. ajw93 on August 8th, 2008 @ 10:51 am

    Huh, interesting note David. I commute most days by bike and about 2/3 of the ride is along the Mt Vernon trail. About half the walkers/joggers and about 1/3 of the cyclists have headphones on. I have been tempted, but some of said cyclists go REALLY fast and have nearly knocked me down several times as I putter along at about 10 mph (without dinging a bell or telling me they are there, grrr, just whizzing by). So I am sort of leery of headphones. But splitting the difference and just plugging one ear might be something to try on a quiet morning?

    Anyhow, be safe and happy cycling!

  3. diamondjewelry on August 22nd, 2008 @ 4:55 pm

    It becomes more important to maintain one’s awareness the faster one is bicycling. So if I’m out for a pleasure ride, I’ll rock headphones. If I’m breaking a sweat, I keep them off and enjoy the sounds of nature. Or whatever’s surrounding me.

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