Shame On You, Apple
Today, Apple introduced a few new products. As a devotee of their computers since the Reagan administration, I always follow MacWorld Expo with some interest — especially this year in which I’m tossing around the notion of a new 12” PowerBook.In Apple’s ad copy for the new iPod Shuffle:
“If you favor cycling to a hip-hop soundtrack and snowboarding to a little electronica, Autofill iPod shuffle from a specific iTunes Playlist and roll.”
The electronica reference was grating and annoying, like grandma trying to sound cool by looking up some lingo. But, my problem isn’t really that. It’s the first part of that. “If you favor cycling to a hip-hop soundtrack…”
Under California Vehicle Code (27400), it is unlawful to operate any vehicle (including a bicycle) while wearing headphones (“A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears” – ¶1). The single headphone that comes in hands-free cell phone attachments leaves one ear free to hear traffic. No, it’s not legal “if you turn it down” or any other seemingly mitigating factor. It’s flat out illegal to operate a bicycle while wearing headphones — not just in California, but most other states as well.
Not only is it illegal to do so, it’s extremely reckless and dangerous to operate a bicycle while listening to your iPod. As a transportational cyclist who logged over 5000 miles last year on Silicon Valley streets, I find it sometimes infuriating with unobstructed hearing to deal with the ignorance and inattentiveness of motorists who share my roads. Wearing headphones while cycling is idiotic.
It is downright irresponsible for any company to advocate such activity, as though it were benign. Apple is influencing a fanatically devoted group of devotees, including some people who might not know that there’s anything at all wrong with what is suggested in that copy. Most bicycle riders know almost nothing about the rules of the road in the first place (I have encountered wrong-way cyclists almost every day – coming down the left sidewalk or bike lane with no lights, dressed in black, no helmet, at night). While it’s not Apple’s responsibility to make sure that everyone who buys their products isn’t an idiot, they still have a responsibility not to advise their customers to engage in reckless behavior against the rule of law and common sense.
Apple, remove that copy at once. It only takes one idiot to go cycling “to a hip-hop soundtrack” to get hurt by a car wearing an iPod Shuffle to cost your company tens of millions of dollars. That copy is a lawsuit just itching to happen. If I wasn’t about to go to bed in the next five minutes, I’d be extra helpful by posting quotes from a study or two about how much more dangerous bicycling gets when it’s done incorrectly, inattentively, and irresponsibly.