We keep bells on all of our bikes; we like to think of them as the Little Brass Ambassadors of the Bike Trail.
Do you use a bell?
Posted 6.30.10 in Polls, The Kitchen Sink | Bookmark or Share
Constantly. My bells help me say hello to passers-by, alert riders that I’m behind them so I don’t startle them with a sudden “on your left”, and help me let drivers know that I exist. Plus, when riding in a group, it’s a great way to start a cacophony of bicycle noisemaking. It’s so important that when I reoriented my handlebars recently, the bell got priority placement over the thumbshifter.
I adore the crystal clear resonance of most of the good Japanese brass bells, but that rolling “tring-ri-ring” style bell seems to tap into some pleasant feelings in the mass subconscious as well as my own. Maybe it’s the imagined stereotype of the French countryman bringing home a baguette and a bottle of wine in his front basket…
I had one mounted for most of the last year. I found that approximately 1/3 of the people were startled when they heard the bell instead of being pleasantly alerted. Maybe we’re high-strung here. I only travel 2-3 very short multi-use segments (e.g. crossing canals and highways); the rest is on streets so I rarely had occasion to ding anyway. It didn’t survive my last handlebar change. I’m sure if I used the multi-use paths more it would be different.
Peds – a polite ding, ding
Cars in bike lane with windows open – angry RINGRINGRINGRINGRING
Cars doing something dangerous/stupid/illegal – shout (‘cuz they won’t hear the bell anyway)
I use an “Incredibell” on both of my bikes.
Something about a bell coveys a friendly “FYI” better than a honk of a horn. Horns seem, no matter which kind, seem to range from obnoxiousness to hostility.
It’s the law in Toronto, $110 fine if you don’t have one.
So yeah, I have one and use it regularly.
I have a ding-dong bell that came with my Pashley and I use it if cars are not giving me enough room or are in the bike lane (before shouting…). I still say “on your left” when passing other cyclists and really wish more would do the same for me. Any alert would be great as opposed to being surprised by someone passing me.
I think the Japanese bell sounds like a better alternative to my loud bell for me to alert other cyclists without startling them.
It’s a fine art, knowing precisely how far away from a pedestrian to ring a bell so they can hear it without being startled. I’ll sometimes start ringing early and keep ringing until I get close enough that they finally notice. I figure this is better than waiting too late and scaring the daylights out of ‘em (though that can be fun too ;-)).
Sadly in my home town with a large percentage of people using our trails suffering from various degrees of hearing loss quite often an air horn is more appropriate than a bell. I have had mixed results with the bell (about the same as shouting out On Your Left – half the time people step in front of me rather than away from me, sigh).
At least the bells are a courteous way of letting other trail users know that you are there…
I’ve been thinking about buying my bike a bell lately. I like the way the Japanese bells look and sound but I’ve seen a tiny little Incredibell that mounts on top of an STI hood and am thinking that might be more convenient.
On the whole if I’m on a mixed use path, I consider it my responsibility to navigate around pedestrians without disturbing them, rather than use my bell and blasting past which implies they’ve got to get out of my way. I really only use the bell when I’m on the road, to alert a walker with their back to me that I’m coming, otherwise my cheery ‘good morning’ tends to make them jump out of their skins! If I’m approaching a horse rider, I’ll give a verbal warning – usually ‘rider, bike behind you’, just in case the horse hasn’t encountered a bike bell before. I have to say I find the American habit of saying ‘on your left’ on paths a bit off putting, I’m sure it’s meant in the same spirit as a bell but it does tend to come across as an order – especially if brusquely spoken by an out of breath rider. It’s a tricky one – one person’s ‘hello, don’t meant to give you a fright’ is easily someone else’s ‘out ma way!’
We never “blast past” pedestrians, but we often encounter groups of walkers, joggers, and dog walkers 3-4 wide completely blocking the trail ahead of us. If we didn’t let them know we were behind them with a bell ring, we would literally have to stop in the trail until someone happened to notice us.
Where I used to live, there was a notorious cycling passhole who used to tear down a multi-use path through a park, and berate pedestrians if they ever walked three abreast, or allowed their dog leash to block the path. Hours after one encounter with him, I found myself still fantasizing about violent ways of teaching him civility. It made me realize how toxic and contagious it can be when you don’t calibrate your passing attitude.
Whether you use a bell, horn, vuvuzela, or “on your left,” the important thing to consider is that you are communicating with people with an infinite variety of moods, personalities, and abilities (hearing abilities, and ambulatory abilities). You can’t expect an autonomic response to whatever notice you provide them as you approach them from behind. It just needs to be civil. Nonetheless, sometimes you may have to come to a complete stop before you can pass. Smile and deal with it.
Peds Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a polite ding, ding
Cars in bike lane with windows open Ã¢â‚¬â€œ angry RINGRINGRINGRINGRING
Cars doing something dangerous/stupid/illegal Ã¢â‚¬â€œ shout (Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcuz they wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hear the bell anyway)”
Hahaha….words to live by.
My bells are usually sufficient to accomplish the goal of alerting whoever I’m passing … more effectively when accompanied by a smile and “good morning” or “good afternoon”. Most people smile back and say hello … sometimes I even get a “nice bell” or “nice bike” comment.
My absolute favorite, however, is the group of two or three people pushing strollers full of young ones … side by side … chatting away … spanning the entire width of the supposedly 2-way paved path. I ring the bell a few times as I get closer … nothing. I continue to ring … louder … one person turns their head around to see what the noise is, then turns back and continues on as if nothing happened. I keep ringing … and another person or two perform the same visual communication, which is effectively to say “Yeah, we see you … but we’re not moving … go ride somewhere else.”
Even better is the same scenario, only this time the “stroller gang” is coming toward me on the path … they all see me … hear the bell … and refuse to “share the road”.
Normally, I might take a moment to say something about how nice it is when we can all share our recreational facilities … people walking dogs or jogging are often simply unaware of what’s around them, especially if they have the iPod pumping, and perhaps should be more alert … but there’s something about a gang of moms with strollers that scares me a little.
Does anyone have any bridge ideas for mounting a bell on drop bars so it’s in a position when you can actually use it easily? Mine is on the tops near the stem and I find it annoying, as that’s nowhere near where my hands are most of the time (on the hoods).
I have a bell on my camping bike. Most of the time I use it to ring “Hello!” to friends and acquaintances I ride past (more often when I lived in a town of 10,000 rather than now, among 4 million Puget Sound City citizens). I do use it pretty frequently on bike paths, but I actually find that a gentle “On your left” is less jarring. I never use it in an attempt to communicate with cars, as that seems pretty futile. An air-horn might be effective, but you couldn’t pay me to hang an air-horn on any of my bikes.
I also ring my bell furiously when passing pastures full of cows. I like how they all turn and stare at me. I also ring at cats crossing the street in front of me. Also at children riding bikes. I also ring my bell to myself frequently when I am thoroughly enjoying a ride.
I’ve started using the bell that came with my Street Machine when coming up to pedestrians. In many parts of our town the pedestrians / tourists walk on the roads, so it’s a big safety concern. I’m getting comments like “hey, thanks for head’s up” – I think it works.
Also, I’ve noticed another cyclist starting to use theirs. Who knows, this bell thing may really be catching on here in this little town.
Ever since the Ecovelo post about the extra amounts of toxic pollutants that cyclists inhale on streets ( http://www.ecovelo.info/2010/06/14/an-argument-for-separated-facilities-slow-cycling-and-fewer-cars/) , I started taking a longer route home that includes multiuse paths, dirt trails, parks, and very little motor vehicle traffic. On this new route, I pass a lot of pedestrians.
When approaching people or dogs blocking the way on MUPs, it seems like they often don’t hear my talking voice until I’m close enough to startle them (I don’t like to yell from far back), so I sometimes click my brake levers by pulling them back slightly, then releasing a few times. The unnatural clicking sound almost always alerts a pedestrian that I’m approaching to pass. Other times, I just slow down and wait til they see me. When I’m on the park path, where I’m technically not supposed to ride a bike, I don’t make any noise, but ride slowly, and pass pedestrians with a wide berth by detouring into the grass, so as not to make them feel like they need to give me room. I always say hello and usually get a smile back.
I enjoy sharing the paths and trails with pedestrians so much more than sharing the streets and roads with cars and trucks. Cleaner air and face to face interactions with people is wonderful. I now arrive home so much less stressed than I did on my old route, I’m just a little later to arrive.
“…thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s something about a gang of moms with strollers that scares me a little.” Damn right- I’ve heard them discussing ramming tactics. Bath is full of the idle rich who, having just decanted Tarquin and Emmeline from the Cayenne on double yellow lines ( no parking ) proceed to occupy the whole pavement with double-width prams and hold conversations about someone’s affair with a senior manager, oblivious to anything occurring around them. It’s the smug, complacent arrogant assumption that money makes them immune from common sense which gets on my wick. Anyway, I have a large, loud bell and I use it freely to wake the lemmings out of their stupor.
@Alan – sorry, ‘blast past’ was a little strong although some cyclists do, possibly not realising how it feels when a bike passes close to a walker, whether warned or not. The three abreast thing is a problem, but there’s no compulsion for pedestrians to get out of the way of bikes, you just have to let them know you’re there and let them decide whether or not they will (I suspect your bikes run much more silently than mine which always has a rattle or squeak or two). Naturally I always thank people if they move over for me. I’ve often thought sleigh bells on a bike would be a good idea – provides a continuous gentle reminder of your presence without ever coming across as rude.
Eh, between whatever I’ve got strapped on the porteur rack, the steel bottles loosely fit in the steel cages, pebbles pinging off the metal fenders, and the wald folding baskets rattling against themselves when folded up, I make enough noise that most folks hear me coming. I’ve thought about getting a bell, had one on my last bike. With drops, I like the mount that puts them sideways on the stem.
I think I convinced my girlfriend (now wife) to get a bike by getting her a bell.
It’s been my experience that bells and riding hands-on-hoods are generally incompatible; your hands are just too far away from any mounting point on the bars to let you ring it. You could, conceivably, rip a bullhorn off of a mountain bike and stick the bell to that, but that seems like a lot of overkill and will pretty much make your drops unusuable.
I’ve found the best success mounting my bell to the vertical part of the stem, with the lever oriented so that I press it away from me. This way, any hand on the top of the bar can ring it with its thumb, and it’s not too drastic a position shift from hood riding. As a plus, if you’re really far down in the drops, you can ring it with your nose, too…
I dunno. I don’t think the MUPs are the best place to conduct class warfare–if there’s any good place to conduct it. If a baby stroller is a proxy for rich, smug, complacent, and arrogant, then what is a bicycle a proxy for in the minds of the stroller pushers? Poor, hostile, anxious and resentful? Maybe. The way to combat that perception is to be more civil than they ever would expect you to be.
I’m very fortunate here in that we have an incredible park with extensive MUPs and my bell works 95% of the time. It probably helps that the main route through the park also allows cars most days and times of the week, so pedestrians and slow bikers are more aware in general.
Before my bell, I used the ” on your left” call but that always startled people. The rattle of downshifting can help but the bell seems to be almost universally recognized.
I use my bell an average of 3 times a day. I get a thank you probably every other day which seems great to me. I give two quick dings and if I get no reaction I often give a louder one or two dings figuring the person’s ears are plugged.
One issue I have is my bell gets very quiet when it is wet. Do they all do that or is it just the style I have?
When I am riding in a bike lane on a street I always appreciate it when another cylcist passing me says “on your left.” There are enough things going on with cars that I am trying to keep track of and I hate being startled by another bike passing me too close.
Gripe: My bell is virtually useless in the presence of walkers/joggers with earbuds in their ears.
Joy: There is nothing else on my bike that makes me smile quite like the sound of my bell.
For longest time I never used a bell. Had some silly stereo type about having a dingy bell on my bike. Then I purchased a bike trailer to excel at my car free life style and decided to get a bell on the bias that I now needed more room to get around people while on shared bikeways.
Im glad to say, I’m happily converted to using a bell at anytime.