British Columbia

Sounds like trouble: Grouse Grind wants hikers to stop using loud, portable speakers

A spokesperson with Metro Vancouver Parks said there has been a growing number of complaints from trail users about people playing music loudly from portable speakers and cellphones instead of using headphones.

Rules against portable speakers are on the books in several jurisdictions

The Grouse Grind is a well-used hiking trail on the North Shore of the Lower Mainland. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The Grouse Grind should be about climbing heights, not climbing volumes.

That's the message from Metro Vancouver, which has posted signs this month at the popular North Shore trail to remind users not to use portable speakers while hiking.

Dawn Hanna with Metro Vancouver Parks said there has been a growing number of complaints from trail users about people playing music loudly from portable speakers and cellphones instead of using headphones.

Hikers pass by one of the signs at the Grouse Grind urging people to use headphones for their music — not portable speakers or their cellphone speakers. (Dawn Hanna)

"When you're in the forest and one person starts cranking their tunes, you really notice it," Hanna said. "You have to be thoughtful ... there's other people here."

The signs are posted at the base of the trail and about one quarter of the way up the route. Hanna said the signs were made in house and might have cost a total of $50.

A Grind user herself, Hanna lamented how annoying it can be to have her hikes disrupted by people who don't use headphones.

"You go out there to enjoy nature, and you go out there to enjoy solitude and recharge your batteries," she said.

"To have somebody intrude on that space with their experience that they enjoy, is kinda, like, come on."

Rules widespread

Rules against loud music on speakers and cellphones are on the books at Metro Vancouver's other parks, too, Hanna said, not just at the Grouse Grind

But elsewhere, the devices are forbidden as well.

Portable speakers, often equipped with Bluetooth technology, are a popular electronic accessory. (successo images/Shutterstock)

The Vancouver Parks Board forbids the use of any "amplifying system or loud speaker" without permission in any of its parks or facilities.

A spokesperson for TransLink said audio devices are not allowed if they can be heard by other passengers. Failure to comply with that rule can lead to a 24-hour ban from the public transit system.

The City of Vancouver also restricts noise from devices that are "liable to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience" of people in the city. Last year, a city spokesperson said, the city received 13 complaints regarding portable speakers, including eight on public property.

Ear of living dangerously?

So if portable music speakers are leading to complaints and are generally annoying people, is there any justifiable reason to use them instead of headphones?

Hugh Davies, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health, has studied hearing loss extensively.

Davies said headphone use is increasingly seen as a cause of it — especially among young people.

"You're probably not likely to reach the levels that cause hearing damage by using speakers than putting earbuds in," Davies said. "It's an argument that has some merit."

But Davies also conceded that it is quite annoying to have one's personal space invaded by people blasting their music. He says he hears a lot of that from his home near the Vancouver Seawall.

"I can see it's even more annoying for people in the backcountry or bush," he mused, calling annoyance "a very valid" concern for trail users.

About the Author

Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten. Liam contributes to CBC Vancouver's Impact Team, where he investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community.

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