A few weeks ago, after having the temerity to write that I don't much like sharing bus lanes with motorbikes, I was bombarded with a collection of the most offensive e-mails and website posts that I've ever received. So hysterical was the debate on The Independent's website that a motorcycle magazine decided to write a news story about it – which in turn drove dozens more to post their hateful musings on our site. One motorcyclist even suggested that he and his fellow bikers push me under a bus (which didn't do much to convince me that this is a reasonable bunch).
There seems little point in going back over the issues of bikers in bus lanes (you can read the dozens of posts and my responses on our website). But as the debate unfolded on the forum, a new topic of irritation emerged among the readers: how on earth could I justify listening to an iPod on my bike?
Listening to music while you cycle is definitely not illegal – although there are a few clauses in the Highway Code which suggest that you should avoid distractions, including loud music.
I don't listen to my iPod loudly, I keep the volume at a level where I can hear the traffic. However, I'm confident that even if I couldn't hear a thing outside my headphones, I would still be able to control my bike just as safely.
My hearing has never been particularly good, and I always rely on my eyes before taking a decision on the road. If I'm pulling out, I'll look over my shoulder, and if I'm simply keeping my line, then I take it for granted that cars behind me can see me. If I'm already riding in the gutter, being able to hear a vehicle won't make any difference.
When it comes to crossing junctions, I always slow down until I've had eye contact with anyone who could possibly be trying to pull into my path. Again, no need for my ears.
I can understand that some people might not feel comfortable wearing headphones – and I'd respect their decision not to. But I just don't get how people can feel so angry about the fact I choose to listen to music while cycling. If I get killed on my bike, I'm sure the coroner's report will comment on the fact I was wearing headphones. Too bad I won't be around to let them know that the music had nothing to do with it.