Opinion: Why Don’t Bikes Have Bells?


I walk through the hub trail almost every day. I put my headphones on and usually listen to something from Hans Zimmer. The slow-moving fat strings calms me down impeccably and lets me enjoy the swaying grass and the glinted tress. A few minutes into that walk, when the drums kick in with the brass and the cellos, a bike blares past me scaring the living soul out of me.

Why the on earth don’t they have bells or some kind of horn to let people know that they are about to wiz past you? If you stretch your hands in the trail, you probably will find it in a ditch, between a cyclist’s teeth.

Is it a style thing? Don’t they have bells or horns because it is uncool? I won’t know because I haven’t owned a bike. A friend of mine had a bike which I borrowed to go into the trail a few weeks back. On my way back I was stuck behind two women who were talking so loud that they didn’t hear me approach. Even after tailing them for a few meters they had no idea that I was behind them, trying my best to get ahead. I wanted to go past them and at the same time, I didn’t want to interrupt their conversation.

So, I came up with an ingenious plan. I saw a twig lying in the middle of the road a few meters ahead. I slowed my bike down and waited for them to pass the twig, and once they did, I rode as fast as I could towards the twig so that it would make the loudest possible noise.

The plan worked. I broke the twig, which made enough noise to scare those women onto a nearby tree. I rode away as fast as I could before they got a chance to tell me exactly the sort of thing that would pass through my mind if a cyclist were to ever do that to me.

The whole situation could have been avoided if there was a bell or some contraption on my bike to make some noise to alert people about my existence.

What if the women I scared that day had a heart condition? Even scarier is the fact that I am easily terrified. What if one of these two-wheeled maniacs were to pass me when I am completely immersed in the Cornfield Chase? It is only human to lose all sense of reality when you listen to any of the tracks from Interstellar. I might have a heart attack then and there.

So, get a bell, save lives.

-Noel Tomy


  1. Most cyclists on that trail use this simply thing called vocal cords. The standard approach is “I am coming up on your left/right” and everyone is fine. I’m both a part time cyclist and most of the time pedestrian. This method works 100% of the time, and provides more information then a simple bell does.

  2. I can identify with this, especially for the idiots that ride on the sidewalks. When I was a kid growing up, all bikes had to have a bell or horn and lights, required by law, but so many laws today are ignored or broken no one cares. Most police have no idea whatever about the differences between rules for electric wheelchairs, Mobility Scooters or E bikes, and there are vastly different rules governing all of them. Just the society we live in today, I guess….

  3. When I lived in London Ontario you would hear some bells but the common practice was to call out “on your left” or simply “left” when coming up to pass someone. This is pretty universal etiquette and seems to have a better response than a bell or horn most the time.

    When I started cycling in the soo again I noticed absolutely no bells or call outs. The first few times out when I would call out “on your left” it seemed to throw people into a panic, sometimes even making them move to their left. I switched to a bell and found it largely ignored. It may alert people to my presence but rarely has them move from the middle of the path to allow safe passing.

    The suggestion has been made to post “cycling and multi use path etiquette” signs. The soo is still relatively new to these types of paths and standard etiquette isn’t intrinsic yet.

    • Ian McLarty yet we dont have an established habit of proper use and response for them yet as larger cities with established multiuse paths do.

      Cyclists need to learn that a bell or a call out is to alert someone to your presence even when the lane is clear. Also pedestrians need to know that a bell or callout is to alert them to move to the side of the path to allow safe passing.

      Requiring something by law and establishing effective use are not the same.

    • Very true. I use both my bell and “on your left” frequently, in hopes of setting an example for others. I just don’t understand why bike shops don’t use the list of legally required equipment as a chance to sell more accessories at the time of bike purchases.

    • Carol Paige Parker Helmets are not mandatory for adults, and are not a physical part of the bicycle. Anything that legally is required on the bicycle itself should be part of the bicycle when it’s sold. Most people when they by a bike aren’t hunting to see what laws have passed in the last 100 years dictating what after market parts they need to then buy and add to it.

    • Blair Burch you’re into a lot of grey area there though. I believe a lot of requirements are only for road or multi use path use and some are only required in certain circumstances. Also some are only city bylaws or provincial laws which would force manufacturers to cope with too many location based variables.

      Lights and reflectors for example are only required for 30min before dusk till 30min after dawn. I also dont believe any of these things would be required on pump tracks, skills parks, single track trails, downhill parks, double track trails, velodrome, during triathlons and races. To include them all on bikes when only a portion of riders use thier bikes on roads and multi use paths wouldn’t make sense.

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