Tuesday’s Tip: Bicycle Bells

When you think of the sounds of the city, you may remember the rumble of cars, rustling leaves and the loud one-sided conversations of everyone on their iPhones, but you should also think about bells! No, not the church bells that ring by the hour (although those are nice too), but the ding or brrring of your choice that keeps you safe in the city.

Some people say that there is no need to have a bell on your bike, that you can just as easily yell at someone to let them know you are coming. That might work for some people, but personally I’m not the biggest fan of yelling in general, and as a result I don’t seem to be wired for the quick, as-needed “I’m gonna hit you in 5 seconds!” screams that cycling sometimes demands. Nope, I’d much prefer a bell.

Now, beyond being just a safety device, a bell adds a splash of your personality to your bike. I asked for a bell for Christmas last year and when I went into my hometown bike shop to pick it out, I promptly rung all of the bells in sight. After all, if I don’t like yelling, then why would I want my bell to be the loudest, most obnoxious thing on the streets? (But hey, if that’s what you want, we have the Dimension Teapot Bell in stock, ready to wake your neighbors and let that cell phone driver blocking the bike lane know you are here.) Instead, I got a nice sharp ding that cuts through headphones and weaving conversations, keeping me visible to cars and pedestrians.

But, just because you like your bell’s sound, doesn’t mean that others will appreciate, or respect it. I’ve noticed many pedestrians, in Downtown Crossing and by the Green St. T Station especially, who are obviously aware of me and my ringing bell, but nevertheless continue to walk directly in my path. To them I usually give a sharp glare and, if my temper is high enough and my tongue quick, maybe a little shout, normally consisting of a single word, “Hey!”

Yeah…I’ll probably stick with a bell.


2 responses to “Tuesday’s Tip: Bicycle Bells”

  1. Gerry Fraser says:

    I’m no fan of yelling either, but to me a bell or horn or any other noisemaker doesn’t give the other person enough information.
    When I’m walking I much prefer to hear a firm, polite “On your left.” This lets me know not only where the bike is, but the rider’s intention. I may not be as quick as I used to be but it still takes me much less time to understand the message and react than it does to whirl around and try to guess the bicyclist’s intention.
    When I’m biking I try to be audible, polite and informative. If that doesn’t work both my volume and tone of voice become more urgent as needed. If the walker still remains oblivious at least I get some vocal relief.

  2. Natalie says:

    Good point Gerry!

    Definitely letting the pedestrian/biker know where you are located is valuable information that a bell fails to communicate. Perhaps the voice and bell should compliment each other rather than being mutually exclusive?

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