I have an alarm that goes off every morning at 6:30 AM. I don’t set it and I don’t need it, but it goes off Monday through Friday like clockwork (which it’s not). It’s the guttural roar of my dependable neighbor’s truck. Since I’m old, I remember when cars and trucks didn’t make so much noise; before the advent of the “high performance” muffler. But again, I date myself – they’ve been appropriately renamed “pipes”. That’s truth in advertising, ‘cause they sure don’t muffle.
Bikes make noise, but not much. There’s the sound of the wheel on pavement, the chain on cog, the clatter of the freewheel, and for most of our bikes, the various pings, scratches and rattles of deferred maintenance. Most important, however, is the sound of the joyful bike bell. Is there a cheerier noise on this planet?
Cars are getting louder and louder and the quietest car, the Prius, will soon be fitted with a noise maker because it’s just too darn quiet! “It’s dangerous! You can’t here it coming!” Might I suggest that making the other cars quieter would bring the noise of the Prius into an audibly detectable range? Nah! If we make cars loud enough, the blind can drive too. Driving by sound is much safer than driving by brail – isn’t that what those little dots on the road are for?
Occasionally, I see someone riding their bike with headphones on. I’ve tried it, but found it rather disturbing. I’ve talked to riders who feel like it’s unsafe because they can’t hear what’s coming. That’s probably true – at least to some extent – but I don’t think it’s what bugs me. I think what bugs me is the way it disassociates me from the sounds around me. Wearing headphones makes riding a bike a more car-like experience. It insulates you from your surroundings. Not a good thing.
When I was a kid we would attach a card to our bike frames so it clattered in the spokes. Nothing stopping us from doing that now. We could even outfit the card with amplifying pipes (“loud pipes save lives!”).
If our bikes made a lot of noise, we could plug our ears with headphones, and we wouldn’t have to listen to the noise we inflict on everyone else. Just like car drivers! Cool. Very adult.
If that’s being adult, then I’m going with the child-like option. I not only want to be able to hear the uplifting cheeriness of my bike bell I want to share it. When I first started riding in town, I would ring my bell whenever I rode past a bike rider’s house, but I quit because I thought noone noticed. Then, the other day a friend said, “you never ring your bell when you go by anymore”. Oh, joyful noise! Let’s make a pact. We’ll all ring our bells when we pass the homes of people we know ride and we’ll fill our community with the sound of quiet transportation. Click here to start now.