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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Banning iPods

posted by on February 7 at 8:59 AM

If it’s successful, this proposed legislation in New York would seriously undermine Apple’s marketing campaign for the iPod—you know, all those ads showing skinny/scruffy hipsters of indeterminate race walking down the street, lost in their iPods, or hipster silhouettes dancing like maniacs against a brightly colored background, also lost in their iPods. A state legislator in New York have a name for that condition:

…your favorite electronic devices could be in the crosshairs. Legislation will be introduced in Albany on Wednesday to lay a $100 fine on pedestrians succumbing to what State Sen. Carl Kruger calls iPod oblivion.

“We’re talking about people walking sort of tuned in and in the process of being tuned in, tuned out,” Kruger said. “Tuned out to the world around them. They’re walking into speeding cars. They’re walking into buses. They’re walking into one another and it’s creating a number of fatalities that have been documented right here in the city.”

Pedestrians have been hurt and killed in the manner Kruger describes. Not surprisingly, though, iPod users are less than thrilled with the senator’s proposal.

“That’s not a distraction,” said one woman, iPod securely implanted in her ears. “You have your iPod in your ears and you’re crossing the street, you are looking with your eyes. You don’t have to hear anything, really.

I’m what’s know as a “late adopter.” New technology—beh. Who needs it?

But my boyfriend got me an iPod for Christmas, explaining that my love of musical theater combined with my dread of small talk—in airplanes, in stores, in coffee shops, in bedrooms—made the iPod the perfect gift. I’ve been walking around listening to it ever since. Right now I’m listening to the original cast recording of Let My People Come, which is just as hilariously awful as advertised. (If you’re too young to remember when oral sex was the height of kink, you need to listen to this musical and then thank your lucky stars you were born after 1975.) And, of course, Mika.

I don’t think Kruger’s legislation will be successful, but I have to admit that Kruger has a point. I’ve almost gotten myself killed three or four times in the last six weeks. Not by strolling out in front of cars—I look both ways even with my iPod on—but because I, uh, can’t really hear anything. And a person does take things in, and become aware of risks, with their eyes and their ears.

Your ears, in an urban environment, are the eyes in the back of your head. I haven’t walked out in front of any cars or buses, lost in iPod oblivion, but I haven’t been able to hear bikes and joggers and skateboarders and other pedestrians coming up fast behind me. And In one instance I’m pretty sure the person coming up behind me was thinking about mugging me.

Kruger’s advice for me?

“If you want to listen to your iPod, sit down and listen to it,” Kruger declared.

I doubt that even Steve Jobs can come up with commercial that makes that look like fun.

RSS icon Comments


Yeah, what's with all the hipsters who move to the gritty city and then spend most of their waking hours tuning it out? After about 30 seconds with earphones of any kind on outside I get paranoid and jumpy. Add a hundred-cubic-foot backpack and you've got a serious public hazard if you're near a high school.

Posted by Fnarf | February 7, 2007 9:40 AM

On most military bases, its illegal to wear headphones while walking or riding a bike.

That being said, I think its stupid. Keep your iPod turned down enough to hear the outside world if you are prone to not looking around you and behind you. This works in unfamiliar neigborhoods as well. Also, keep to the right on the sidewalk and most bikers/skaters will go around you. Like the rules of the road, slow people to the right!

Posted by Monique | February 7, 2007 9:46 AM

I'm confused. Didn't people listen to walkmen and discmen before ipods? Portable music has been around for a long time. I know I never went anywhere without my walkman when I was a teenager. And it didn't even fit in my pocket.

Posted by Baxter | February 7, 2007 9:47 AM

"They’re walking into speeding cars. They’re walking into buses. They’re walking into one another and it’s creating a number of fatalities..."

Aah, the East Coast. If there were just a fatality or two in Seattle for people walking into one another, sidewalks would be much more efficiently walked.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | February 7, 2007 9:49 AM

If there was ever a way to lose the youth vote, this is it. What a fucking old fuddy duddy.

Posted by Gitai | February 7, 2007 9:58 AM

Here's an idea: Let's ban all hearing-impaired pedestrians too! They're a hazard to themselves and everyone around them! Let's take away their driver's licenses while we're at it!

Honestly. Absurd. I'm hearing-impaired, urban-living, a frequent pedestrian, and I get along just fine. All people need is extra visual awareness and common sense. (The latter of which I fear is rather lacking in far too many people...)

Or, y'know, just turn the damn thing down.

Posted by Rose Red | February 7, 2007 10:01 AM

I'm with Baxter on this issue. And, moreover, the maximum volume on the old Walkmen weas a lot louder than today's iPods.

Posted by DrewVSea | February 7, 2007 10:06 AM

I have to admit, "Ipod Oblivion" is pretty funny.

As far as the "youth vote", uh, is this like the yeti? existing in rumor only?

Posted by Mike in MO | February 7, 2007 10:19 AM

Yes, this nanny state legislation is preposterous.

That said, I've nearly creamed a couple of "Pod People" who just walked out into the street in front of me without looking. A cyclist hitting you at 30mph can kill both people involved. I think it has a lot more to do with these stupid "Stop for me, it's the LAW" signs. Pedestrians here think they have forcefields on or something. The laws of physics will win every time, unfortunately.

Posted by two wheeled death machine | February 7, 2007 10:28 AM


how is this different than walkmans, which have been around since the late 70s?

can I go back to my cave in the hills now?

Posted by K | February 7, 2007 10:47 AM

#9 has it correct, Pedestrians need to start looking, if they have an ipod or not the need to look, just because a pedestrian has the right of way does not mean that they have been seen –
Not that this legislation makes the least bit of since but come on walkers look where your going please – that goes double for bikers with headphones, which I fail to comprehend being a practical decision.

Posted by yea | February 7, 2007 11:06 AM


If you like Let My People Come you should see the all-puppet video callet Let My Puppets Come.

Posted by Jameson | February 7, 2007 11:08 AM

I think we should ban deaf people from walking while we're at it.

Posted by Kim | February 7, 2007 11:43 AM

Yeah, it's Nanny-state bullshit, but it kinda has a point. Between iPods and perpetual cell-phone use there are a lot of completely tuned-out people strolling around the city in their own personal bubbles of pleasing, reality-dampening stimuli. It seems like a lot of personal communication/entertainment technology is designed to allow people to maintain the sort of waking dreamlike state formerly associated with heavy drug use.

Of course, at least the pedestrian variety of this phenomenon don't hit you at forty miles an hour with two thousand pounds of metal when they fail to notice your presence.

Posted by flamingbanjo | February 7, 2007 12:05 PM

At last -- the poor quality and low isolation properties of the included earbuds can now be viewed as a safety feature!

Posted by josh | February 7, 2007 12:06 PM

So, do drivers get equal treatment and will be forced to not play their car stereos? Or are pedestrian accidents always the pedestrian's fault?

Posted by Christian Gloddy | February 7, 2007 12:34 PM

I love my ipod. It makes homeless people disappear. And people with clipboards see my white headphones and don’t even bother to ask me anything.

Posted by JC | February 7, 2007 12:45 PM

And In one instance I’m pretty sure the person coming up behind me was thinking about mugging me.

Of course they were, they wanted to steal your IPod.

Posted by rodrigo | February 7, 2007 1:12 PM

I have a better idea. Make it legal to run down anyone with earbuds in. And if you cream a guy talking on a hands-free phone, the state pays you $1000.

Posted by Fnarf | February 7, 2007 1:40 PM

I probably pass at least a dozen folks every day who's job it is to hussle/irritate/engage in crazytalk/ all those who pass... I take tuning out to new levels. To me, "headphones on" mean not only can I not hear you, I also CAN'T SEE YOU. Funny, most people pretty much get it, and stop their little monolgue before they get rolling.

Headphones are just one of the luxuries that make public transit more enjoyable, they should probably even be mandatory on the bus - keep the loonies someone accupied between violent outbursts.

Posted by Dougsf | February 7, 2007 1:59 PM

I dont think that this law gives people a right, Sure people can/have got into accedents and such. But it is possible that someone can have an ipod and still hear the outside world, recently I just got an ipod and if its turned down enough, I can still hear my music but still hear whats going on around me. But by banning devices on the streets doesnt give people a right, a right to have independence and freedom.

Ipods also can cheer people up, if your having a bad day, or if its cold out listening to your ipod can help a person get into a better spirit, does our society want to take that away from us, take something private away from us, just like they seem to do to everything else?

Posted by horsekt | February 7, 2007 9:08 PM

We are so disheartened by this frivolous legislation and it's potential nationwide impact that has been demonstrated by the recent NYC bans on smoking and Trans-Fat, that we have created a petition expressing our discontent. Make your voice heard at

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