commute · cycling · fitness

Sam is ringing her bell, maybe?

New pink bell on Sam’s bike

Things to know about me: I am a rule following kind of person. It’s hardwired. It’s what I do.

But I confess that until today, I didn’t have a bell on my commuting bike.

I mean, I had one, years ago, but it broke, and I never replaced it, mostly because I only had it to comply with the law. I rarely, if ever, used it.

Why not? Well, it startled people. And I was finding that either people have headsets on, in which case it doesn’t matter what noise I make, or they seemed less startled, and more appreciative of a cheery “Good morning.”

To be clear, our gravel paths along the river and through the Arboretum are wide and not at all crowded so my bike commute is pretty stress free. So far even the off leash dogs have been well behaved and my only near collision was with turtles the other morning.

Here’s some scenes from my long commute:

Sam’s ride to work

But last week, as I was cycling through the Aboretum on my long way to work, I passed an elderly man with a small dog and my “hello, good morning” wasn’t enough. “Don’t you have a bell on that thing you could ring?” he yelled back.

The laneway we were on was as wide as a regular road and I had passed all the way over to the right. Still, I’d startled him. He expressed a bell preference. It is the law that, all bikes have a working bell or horn so that you can announce your approach.

So now I have a bell.

The pink bell clashes. I think it was a stocking stuffer meant for the Brompton which also doesn’t have a bell. Will remedy that too, get a new one for the commuting bike and put the pink one on the Brompton.

In the meantime, cyclists and non-cyclists alike, which do you prefer, bell or no bell? “Good morning, hello,” or “bring bring”?

U can ring my be-e-e-l, ring y bell

This looks like a good place to star my research: Put a Bell on Your Fast Bike Already.

7 thoughts on “Sam is ringing her bell, maybe?

  1. Interesting! I had the identical experience with two people walking two dogs last week on a gravel trail I use on my morning commute. “Good morning” was not enough. They were quite nice about it and we had a friendly exchange but they made it clear that they expected a bell. I didn’t used to do it as I didn’t want to startle people or appear to be that guy who was ringing it to tell people rudely to get out of the way. I do try to ring it quietly – it is one with a simple spring-loaded hammer that can be quite loud at full force)

    So now I use it and we’ll see if anyone objects.

  2. I like bells. I know I need to check around me for the bike, whereas a good morning doesn’t necessarily signal that. I feel like the insistence-level of the bell is where things can get startling or aggressive.

  3. Thanks for getting a bell! I use mine regularly, and always respond with a cheery “thank you” and wave when someone use theirs when passing me. It is a requirement in the Highway Act, and especially on multi-use pathways I use them to train my kids to move out of the way in order to keep everyone safe (very Pavlovian haha). I have had people respond negatively when I point that out, saying that they are athletes and so they don’t need them. I’d say we’re all athletes out there, and if your relative speed to other users is really high then the bell is even more important. But my partner has asked me to stop pointing this out to people… no one likes being corrected by a stranger.

  4. Where I live, most people shout “On your left!” when passing. With walkers, I find that usually startles them and more than ½ the time they instinctively move left, as though it were a command. A cheery “Good morning” works sometimes with some people, but a pleasant-toned bell is clearly the most effective. People seem to identify the direction it’s coming from and move in the opposite direction without needing time to process the information. The bell wins hands down!

  5. I’m deaf with cochlear implants and would much prefer a call of good morning than a bell. Anytime I hear a bell I think “wind chimes? Here? That’s…” and then the bike swishes by me…

  6. My preference (we walk in Springbank Park every morning) is “on your left.” I always thank cyclists who do this–don’t like bells, as I don’t know what I’m supposed to do–jump out of the way? (Some cyclists are surprisingly aggressive these days. Sigh.)

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