Zombie pedestrian dodge-em


Trying to be a courteous bicyclist, I always attempt to warn pedestrians and other cyclists of my presence, especially when approaching them from behind. I do this by ringing my bike’s bell or calling out that I am on their left or right.

But, to date, I have not been able to find a way to get the attention of those walkers, joggers, etc. who are wearing headphones or earbuds. I call them zombie pedestrians. Short of a foghorn, tornado siren, or cannon blast, I am not quite sure how to garner their momentary attention. As a result, they are usually startled. Fortunately, to date they have not been startled enough to jump into my way, but sooner or later, who knows?

I am not the only cyclist (or driver) who has to contend with zombie pedestrians – just about all bike riders I know have complained about them at one time or another. To me, distracted walkers/joggers have become as commonplace as distracted drivers on cell phones.

Short of a law prohibiting distracted walking/jogging, what’s the solution?

Well, I am not exactly sure. At dawn and disk, your blinking headlight might help garner their attention. One innovative idea I have had is a digital bike bell (or car horn) that would be designed to ring directly into nearby electronic gadgets like iPods, MP3 players, and the like.  There an idea for some enterprising person to jump on. Please send me 20% of all your future profits for sharing the idea. : ) Otherwise, repeated bell ringing or shout-outs are all I can think of as a way to wake them from their trance.

Sadly, it may take a distracted pedestrian colliding with a cyclist to wake them up. The problem is one or both could get seriously hurt. To me, that’s not really a solution, it’s a tacit acceptance of the problem.

Would be happy to hear other ideas and solutions for dealing with zombie pedestrians. Please send them along.


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8 Responses to Zombie pedestrian dodge-em

  1. Tim Potter says:

    Thanks for writing about this very critical problem. Great term. I’ve been describing them as people who are “self-imposed deaf”; I like your term much better. This bad trend is especially common on our campus with everyone on the streets it seems. The little earbuds seem to be giving way to the full size home-use head-phones that completely cover the ears likely making anything but a car horn (or the equivalent) discernible. My favorite back-up noise-maker when the ding-ding bell doesn’t get through is my AirZound by Delta: http://deltacycle.com/Airzound-Bike-Horn It’s air powered and can be recharged by any air pump.

    I’ve started talking with our campus’ office that helps students/ staff with disabilities about creating a campaign against this. One of their staff agrees that such “self-imposed deafness” is truly something that needs to be addressed.

    One close-call I had with a zombie pedestrian recently: I was driving on campus approaching one of these zombies who stepped off a curb without looking and his back to me right into the roadway to cross mid-block. My horn got his attention and he was noticeably shaken by the close call but how many others out there will be less fortunate?


  2. usecraigslist says:

    Why are zombies walking in your protected bike lanes? 🙂


  3. Bill McC says:

    To play devil’s advocate a bit, maybe the concept of bicycle-pedestrian pathways could use more thought. Of course, the system will work better the more everyone pays attention, but for my money pedestrians are the least dangerous of the distracted among those on our roads and paths.


  4. Kumudalala says:

    I’ve had success with throwing gummi bears at them, (my favorite treat while exercising). It triggers them to look around and take notice of their surroundings. Unfortunately, both zombie drivers and zombie bicyclists occupy our streets and pathways as well… would that constitute small, medium and large gummi bears?


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