Do you use a bike bell?

Westminster council recently announced they were considering handing out bicycle bells to keep cyclists safe.

This is a fairly laughable solution to the problem that highlights how Westminster isn’t prepared to take serious action on safe cycling by re-considering the way we design our roads.

Bicycle bells come with all new bike purchases by law. Yet, how many cyclists continue to use them?

To bicycle bell..

There are times when bicycle bells are useful. A canal towpath is the example that springs to mind. There are many blind spots where you can’t see what is around the corner so a gentle ring of the bell will let fellow cyclists know. Also, when you are behind a pedestrian, you can use a bike bell to let them know you would like to pass.

On the roads, pedestrians occasionally step in to the path of cyclists. The bike bell is a way of warning them.

In all of these scenarios you could just use your voice and shout out instructions.

Whether that is more or less polite, is up to debate.

Or not to bicycle bell..

Perhaps the most compelling reason to forego a bike bell is that on the road, it makes no difference at all. I mean, sure it’d be great to think that drivers are paying attention to cyclists and listening for safety cues but let’s be serious. Even a motorist with no ill-will towards cyclists is listening to the radio, the navigation system or has their windows rolled up.

You could ring your bike bell for as long as you want, they won’t hear you.

Another good argument against the bike bell is that they are not placed strategically on the cycle for safety. Most of the time you have to change your grip in order to sound the bell, which can slow your reaction time if your rung bell is ignored. In this instance the bell may do more harm to you than good to the person you’re trying to warn.

Probably the biggest reason many cyclists have either gotten rid of their bike bells or opted out of the bell system altogether is because people can be clueless, especially pedestrians. While pedestrians are the main reason to get a bell, they are also one of the biggest reasons for not getting one.

They tend to suffer from the ‘deer in the headlights’ syndrome where instead of moving quickly out of the path of a speeding bike, they stop directly in your path. Which defeats the purpose of having warned them since you now have to quickly change your course to avoid a collision.

Is the solution to go for a bike horn?

Airzound bike horn

What if bike bells were more effective? I mean think about the power and jarring effect a car horn has. If a bicycle bell could be that forceful would they be a lot more useful?

Perhaps instead, Westminster should be handing out bike horns such as the Airzound.

These are more likely to be heard by drivers but they don’t exactly make for a very liveable city. Do we really want people sounding their bike horns all the time?

Do you use a bike bell?

Leave a comment below!

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90 Responses to Do you use a bike bell?

  1. Watdabni 21/06/2013 at 1:17 pm #

    I have been reading with interest and some astonishment the exchanges between Nicholas Fripp, Chris and Nick (who I presume is not Mr. Fripp). I just want to say that agree with Nick that Mr. Fripp appears to have admitted to committing offences. Whether or not that is true, I do know from Mr. Fripp’s comments that he appears to be exactly the kind of cyclist I despise. I have been cycling for 50 years (40 of them in London) and have never heard such arrogant nonsense in my life.
    I would add that my knowledge of Zen (admittedly limited and derived principally from that great work, ‘Zen and the Art of Motor-Cycle Maintenance’) suggests that deliberate body-slamming of pedestrians would not be acceptable whatever the circumstances. However, like Chris, I look forward to seeing Mr. Fripp’s thoughts on the subject in his forthcoming book. Who knows, maybe he will persuade me that gratuitous violence is an appropriate way to resolve problems?

    • Nicholas Fripp 21/06/2013 at 3:40 pm #

      Arrant nonsense to defend myself from an idiot who ignored warnings and carried on as if I did not exist? I’m not going to repeat myself, but will say in all my 50 years of riding (45 of them in London) this was the first time I knocked anyone over – it was that or crash myself, and that would be taking respect for others a bit too far. I say it was tit for tat, and the person who was intent in knocking me off my bike suffered the fate she intended for me.

      • Chris 21/06/2013 at 3:52 pm #

        Things seem a bit heated here.
        Perhaps we should draw a close to these exchanges, but I would add that Nicholas seems to be in need of some anger management.

        Taking the simple and expedient precaution of slowing down to allow a quite possibly objectionable woman to cross the road seems a far more sensible course of action to me, and eliminates the risk of injury or prosecution. Bodyslamming her to teach her some sort of perverse lesson was entirely disproportionate to what at the end of day was simply an evil look. It did you no harm, other than offending you. Why risk injury to yourself or her? Why risk prosecution? Why risk opprobrium from your fellow cyclists?

        Zen says rise above this sort of everyday insult, the problem is theirs, don’t make it yours.

        • Nicholas Fripp 21/06/2013 at 4:00 pm #

          Sure, Chris – If I could have risen above that woman… I’ll have to call a halt anyway – I’m writing this at a web shack as I will not have a computer of my own and have other things to do now.

  2. Chris 21/06/2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Stay safe man, and slow down!

  3. Nicholas Fripp 22/06/2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Hi Chris

    Gosh it’s gone quiet! Now it has, do you think I have enough here to send to your publisher as a sample chapter of ‘Zen and the Art of Bicycle Riding”?

  4. D Winn 10/06/2016 at 11:40 am #

    I use my bell to let people know I’m there. However, so many people wear headphones these days, that it’s rarely heard even on quiet streets, parks or towpaths so I’m forced to shout. I saw a cyclist attacked by the pedestrian he was trying to warn for using a bulb horn so, I don’t advise that. It’s a real issue.

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