Bike bell etiquette

By 5 November, 2008 43

I’m a pedestrian as well as an occasional commuting cyclist but have never quite come to understand how best to use my bell while on a shared walking/cycle path, nor what the bell from behind means.

Certainly as a pedestrian the ding right behind me usually leads to me jumping out of my skin so I’ve stopped ringing my bell when I’m cycling so much.  I tend now instead to steer wide around people often leaving the formed path, and if necessary announce ‘passing on your right/left’.

Is ringing at 2m behind the problem?  Would ringing with a bit more notice change perceptions?

As a gauge of community views, what do Rioters think of this?  Am I just being a bit skittish in fearing the bell means impending collision?  I guess it could also mean get off the path you silly walker/a mere warning of presence/hi!/gosh you have a good behind…

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43 Responses to Bike bell etiquette
#1
Whatsup7:59 am, 05 Nov 08

As a frequent walker I am happy for the cyclist to ring their bell as they approach. It gives me a chance to get the dog and children out of the way. It might be different if you were out walking quietly by yourself.

#2
Davo1118:22 am, 05 Nov 08

I usually try and overtake [slowly] without ringing the bell for the reason that people tend to jump into your path when they get surprised.

If i can see something which is a little more risky (kids around, pets, swerving cyclist, couple walking etc) then i will ring my bell.

I try to avoid leaving the path because it’s easy to fall over when merging back onto the path (erosion around the edge of the path can make it quite difficult to merge back on).

#3
Pommy bastard8:37 am, 05 Nov 08

Bloody cycle nazi’s I hate em. I make a point of taking my three dogs well off the path and allowing these shaven legged half wits the freedom of the path when I spot them. Less than 10% ever give me a nod of acknowledgment for helping them achieve an unprecedented 3 second beating of their record time into work…

#4
Kramer8:41 am, 05 Nov 08

I ride MTBs, none of which have a bell. So when passing people I’ll either slow right down if I’m passing close by (usually on narrow paths/bridges), or give them a wide berth (off the path) and pass at speed. If they’ve got kids, dogs, or are just all over the place then I’ll yell out “g’day” from some distance away, which usually gets them into line.

#5
mdme workalot8:53 am, 05 Nov 08

I had an interesting experience the other day – I was crossing a pedestrian crossing and two cyclists who were riding on the road started ringing their bells, didn’t give way to me (and clipped my ankle in the process) and then had the gall to shout stuff at me as they were riding off!!! WTF?

I got into my car and started driving home and passed them a little further down the road – the one and only time I’ve been tempted to drive my car past close enough to give them a bit of a scare…

Back OT – I don’t mind cyclists ringing their bell, but when I walk I always stick to the left side of the path so cyclists can go past, therefore ringing the bell is unnecessary. And regardless of if you ring the bell or not, I will not step off the footpath into the mud for you to pass…

#6
deye9:34 am, 05 Nov 08

When approaching someone from behind you ring the bell to let them know you are there. Hopefully they are nice enough to move to the left of the track to give you enough room to overtake – especially if there are several people.

Don’t ring when you are right behind them, they are likely to jump into you. The tricky part is judging when to ring so that they can hear you, but not give them a fright. If I ring the bell and they don’t seem to notice then I ring it again until they do.

If you don’t ring to let them know you are there then there is a very good chance they will happen to move into your path unexpectedly.

I always say thank you as I go past.

#7
blueberry10:07 am, 05 Nov 08

I have the same problem when i am inline skating around the lake.
Unfortunately my skates don’t have a bell and it is pretty hard to go around somebody if you have to go on to the grass.

Usually i just try and make a bit of noise with my skates so that they can hear that i am behind them, but if that doesn’t work i usually just shout a friendly ‘hello’ or ‘excuse me’

#8
Morgan10:14 am, 05 Nov 08

As a frequent cyclist, I wish people would think about the bike paths as a road, keep left overtake on the right etc.

Not that I am saying a bike path is for bikes only, but I wish pedestrians would recognise that bikes have just as much right to be using those paths as they do. Three parents with strollers walking abreast is not helpful.

#9
Jim Jones10:43 am, 05 Nov 08

I’m with Morgan. The amount of dopey mofos who waddle about in the middle of the bike path and then get aggro because you had to squeeze past them give me the sh1ts. I would have thought that a bit of *mutual* respect was in order here.

Which ties into another petty pet-hate of mine, people who hog the escalators in shopping malls. I was also taught to stay to the left, so that people in a hurry could get past – it’s such a small thing, but rather indicative of having a modicum of thought about other people. If that’s anything to go by, the entire mallgoing population of Canberra are nothing but a bunch of self-interested bastards.

#10
Pesty10:49 am, 05 Nov 08

Jim Jones said :

I’m with Morgan. The amount of dopey mofos who waddle about in the middle of the bike path and then get aggro because you had to squeeze past them give me the sh1ts. I would have thought that a bit of *mutual* respect was in order here.

Which ties into another petty pet-hate of mine, people who hog the escalators in shopping malls. I was also taught to stay to the left, so that people in a hurry could get past – it’s such a small thing, but rather indicative of having a modicum of thought about other people. If that’s anything to go by, the entire mallgoing population of Canberra are nothing but a bunch of self-interested bastards.

Happy days are here again!

#11
niftydog11:04 am, 05 Nov 08

From ACT Road Rules:
“A person must not ride a bicycle that does not have… a bell, horn, or similar warning device, in working order.”

Cycle Paths

• Keep to the left…
• …give way to any pedestrians.
• If approaching pedestrians from behind, ring your bell to let them know you are coming, slow down as you pass and give them right of way.”

I ring the bell (on my MTB!) about 5-10 metres back, and again at 2-3 metres if I think they haven’t noticed. Most people I encounter are expecting bike traffic and will acknowledge you without freaking out by either stepping aside or watching for you on their right side. I try not to go whizzing past at top speed, but I also don’t want to have to slow down for every pedestrian. Anything else tends to cause confusion. Some people yell out “BIKE!” or “PASSING!” (or “G’DAY!”) but that freaks out more people than the bell, IME.

If people make a specific effort like rounding up kids and dogs, or breaking from a group of runners to clear a path, I will say thanks as I pass. I also acknowledge drivers who will stop at pedestrian crossings to let me ride across. The law states you’re supposed to dismount, but it seems most people either are unaware of that rule, or like me, think it’s unnecessary. Still, since they’re technically not obliged to stop I think it’s only courteous to give them a wave of thanks.

The problem I see most often is people with iPods et al. They don’t hear the bell or your puffing and wheezing and they will often freak out as you pass regardless of how fast or slow you’re going or what warning you give. That, and the Airbus A380 Pram Brigades… as far as I’m concerned, if they aren’t sharing the path then they deserve to be buzzed.

#12
Swaggie11:29 am, 05 Nov 08

Niftydog nails it but with the “puffing and wheezing” I’m wondering if he should be on a bike at all! :)

#13
Jim Jones11:33 am, 05 Nov 08

Pesty said :

Jim Jones said :

Happy days are here again!

so … much … anger …

#14
imarty12:22 pm, 05 Nov 08

I agree with deye, I say thanks and if I’m walking, I apprececiate a warning whether its a bell or a friendly ‘passing’ ‘bike’ or similar. A bike rushing past without warning startles me.

#15
harley12:40 pm, 05 Nov 08

so you bike nuts want right-of-way on the shared paths?

get off your high-horses and accept that peds have the right-of-way even if they are being arsebiscuits. It’s no different in a car, you hit a ped, even a stupid one, and you’re in the wrong. You may have an equal “right” to use the path, but you have a much greater responsibility to avoid collisions.

“buzzing” people isn’t going to endear you to anyone.

Thumbs up to Davo111, Kramer and deye for their responsible attitude.

All that said – we have a bike path 6 meters from our front door, bordering an oval. The cyclists around our area seem to be a responsible lot, and take care around the kids that play out there (ours included)…

#16
tylersmayhem12:50 pm, 05 Nov 08

I ring the bell (on my MTB!) about 5-10 metres back, and again at 2-3 metres if I think they haven’t noticed.

This is the best way IMHO. I am a cycle commuter, and a pedestrian at times. I hate getting a bell 2 meters behind me with no warning. I think it’s important to let people know you are coming up behind them. That said, I recall a recent even when a pedestrian was walking smack bang in the middle of a cycle path and I did my usual bell from about 20m back – no response, 10m back – no response, 5 then 2m back -still no response. As soon as I passed, I got a mighty “F**k you* yelled in my direction. I looked back and could not see earphones. If the gentleman in question was deaf(which would be a perfectly reasonable excuse), it would be advisable to use their head and walk on the correct side of the path…AND watch their manners.

To add to this, I also ding my bell when overtaking another cyclist using the same distances, ding my bell when entering a blind corner or underpass as well. This has saved me a nasty collision on more than one occasion.

I’s like to think that most cyclists would use their bell responsibly. Certainly more responsibly that some dangerous motorists who honk their horn at you from 2 meters behind while they are doing over 80K’s and I’m doing my best to stay right to the side of the road because the genius who designed the bike lane down Ginninderra Drive didn’t think to make sure the lanes run the full length of the route. I think this kind of conduct from motorists should be punishable. It’s just plain dangerous and reckless.

#17
deye12:53 pm, 05 Nov 08

blueberry said :

I have the same problem when i am inline skating around the lake.
Unfortunately my skates don’t have a bell and it is pretty hard to go around somebody if you have to go on to the grass.

Usually i just try and make a bit of noise with my skates so that they can hear that i am behind them, but if that doesn’t work i usually just shout a friendly ‘hello’ or ‘excuse me’

I usually whistle, though have been tempted to get a little bell to carry around.

#18
frontrow1:02 pm, 05 Nov 08

Is ringing the bell at 2m behind the problem? I think that this might provide enough reaction time to an oblivious pedestrian (mildly deaf, headphones or whatever) if you had the courtesy to get off and push while you were overtaking.

#19
aronde1:04 pm, 05 Nov 08

The bike bell is all powerful – in Japan at least!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtv2_-2mHck

#20
Danman1:34 pm, 05 Nov 08

I ring the bell and use ETA at pedestrian as a guide – not meters – 10 meters at 40kmh is a lot less than 10m at 10kmh.

I usually give 8 to 10 seconds warning, and keep ringing from there on in if they have not acknowledged me.

Additionally, there is a zebra ped crossing near o’connor primary with dismount signs either side of it. If I see a car, I slow to allow it to pass, they usually stop for my passage, to which I accept with a smile and wave.

Belling on blind corners has saved me many times as well..

I ride with an iPod usually, but have it set so I can still hear ambient noise, so that includes cyclists approaching from the rear – and traffic approaching intersections near north lyneham on ellenborough.

#21
astrojax1:51 pm, 05 Nov 08

i’m with danman on this, and all those above who ding to let pedestrians know i’m coming – but when there is an obvious right lane and the ped. is obviously content in the left lane, i pass with due caution and try not to alert and alarm unduly. i have an i-pod on as i ride, mostly, but can and do listen for ambient noise. and for those sans bell, a call ‘coming on your right’ or similar works well…

what peeves me is the pedestrians in pairs who, when you ding, one goes left and one jumps right, into your path. do these people drive like that? isn’t the ‘veer left’ mentality just a habit in this country??

and i always smile and acknowledge when people move for me, and do so when a pedestrian on the paths. wish there was more politeness in the world, but alack…

#22
niftydog2:04 pm, 05 Nov 08

harley said :

so you bike nuts want right-of-way on the shared paths?

WTF? Where did this come from? Nobody here is suggesting anything like that at all. We all seem to agree that sharing is what it’s all about. My mention of “buzzing” was in reference to people who refuse to share!

#23
Jim Jones2:30 pm, 05 Nov 08

harley said :

so you bike nuts want right-of-way on the shared paths?

I used to let pedestrians know I was passing by ringing my bell or (in IPod situations) shouting ‘Excuse me’.

After that comment, I think I’ll stop doing that and just start stabbing them without warning.

#24
harley3:05 pm, 05 Nov 08

On shared paths bikes are to peds as cars are to bikes on roads. By your reasoning this must mean it’s OK for car drivers to honk at cyclists, then abuse or buzz them for not getting out of the way…

The obligation to avoid is on the fast mover, not the obstacle…

I knew I could bait someone today…

#25
Granny3:16 pm, 05 Nov 08

aronde said :

The bike bell is all powerful – in Japan at least!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtv2_-2mHck

How funny! It would work on me, too, I just know!! I’m going to have to get myself a bike bell, but I sure hope nobody hits me ….

#26
blueberry3:56 pm, 05 Nov 08

deye, The whistle is a great idea, i had never thought of that though my whistle is not that loud. I had been contemplating working out a way to attach a cycle bell to the side of my skate though.

Oh and for those that are getting on the back of the cyclists about the use of the paths do remember that we actually have paths in Canberra that are called Shared Paths these are different to a normal road side foot path and have specific rules stating their use :

Shared path

(Mostly black bitumen often marked with white centre lines)

The use of shared paths is restricted to non-motorised transport (with the exception of motorised wheelchairs and power assisted pedal cycles). Both pedestrians and cyclists must share the use of these paths. Please respect all users and be prepared to give way to cyclists and pedestrians as necessary. When cycling, warn of your approach by sounding your bell; if you are cycling or walking, keep to the left. Cyclists should pass pedestrians on the right. Cyclists should give way to pedestrians and other users at all times. If you are a pedestrian, keep a look out for cyclists and give them room to pass. Dogs must be on a leash at all times.

http://www.tams.act.gov.au/move/cycling/cycling_and_walking_map/road_rules

#27
deye4:01 pm, 05 Nov 08

Ah, dogs on leashes. Not so much help when owner is on one side of the path and the dog on the other.

#28
Woody Mann-Caruso4:38 pm, 05 Nov 08

Was always a pleasure walking / cycling on shared paths in the US. Pedestrians walk on the left, cyclists ride on the right. As a cyclist approaches a pedestrian they call out (not too loudly): “On your right.” The pedestrian moves to the left a little, the cyclist rides past with a “thank you!”, everybody is happy. If pedestrians see a bike coming the other way, they simply step off the path to the left so cyclists don’t have to duck and weave (and potentially collide).

#29
emmy-lou5:11 pm, 05 Nov 08

Was walking across a foot bridge in Belco today, talking to friends and absent mindedly walking on the right of the path. I got a ding from about 5 metres back, which wasn’t too loud so I didn’t jump out of my skin. I moved to the side and the cyclist said thank you as she went past. I’m just glad she didn’t get grumpy at me for hogging the path!

#30
frontrow5:12 pm, 05 Nov 08

Harley, I don’t understand the rationale behind basing responsibility for right of way between pedestrians and motorists on velocity.

When I am a pedestrian amongst motor vehicles, I’m happy to take all the responsibility for right of way decisions based on my predictions of what will happen if it all goes pear shaped. The law is only so much protection against a tonne of flying steel.

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