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I purchased a bell after a long time without one. I would say 75% of the time people will say nothing when I use it and move to the side. 25% of the time they will move the wrong direction or have a few choice words for me on the way by. When I did not use a bell one out of a hundred would yell at me for not having a bell and the rest did not know I was there until after I passed. On the bridges I usually yell on your left or if there is a family out for a sunday walk on a trail I usually say on your left and wait for them to gather their kids from the left side of the trail. I have no idea why anyone would write in to Dr.G to say that she hit a ped and they were both at fault. That is not showing a point and giving ammo for the bike haters.

Generally speaking, it should be noted that bells don't work if joggers are wearing earphones.

It's stories like these that confirm for me that bicycles and pedestrians don't mix well.

I'm all for the use of a bell when passing (although it's often necessary to call out "passing on your left as well"), but my estimate is that about 90 percent of solo pedestrians -- runners and walkers -- are wearing headphones! With sound cranked up so high they can't hear a damn thing!

So, yes, we do our part when we give a wide berth and alert pedestrians we are passing, but it rarely makes a difference when you're approaching an oblivious and distracted jogger.

(And, cyclists will be blamed for the collision regardless of poor pedestrian behavior.)

Perhaps a more whimsical ring might seem less like a "get out of the way" horn and have a better affect. Of course assuming no head phones.

There have been times where I ring my bell and announce passing on your left (nicely) only to the the walker be like deer on the headlights. Now all of the sudden you don't know what they are going to do, neither do they.

The worst is when a parent is with a group of young kids who are all over the trail. You ring your bell and the parent just ignores all warnings and lets the young ones just wonder all over the trail.

A lot of this boils down to multi-use trail rules of etiquette. Slow traffic stay to the right, pass carefully, warn when passing, slow down to pass safely, control your kids and pets, when stopping pull off the trail, be aware of your surroundings.

Concur with thm/Liz. Bells/call-outs are basically useless when the peds/joggers have earphones plugged in.

On a side note, a particular pet peeve of mine (especially on the even-narrower-than-the-CCT MVT) is when I call out then pass a pedestrian, and a faster cyclist proceeds to pass me AT THE SAME TIME without even calling out or bell-ringing.

Bikes v. peds on the trail reminds me too much of cars v. bikes on the road. Problem is that our alpha-dog status circles back around on us -- that runner you buzzed on Sunday morning is the douche in the Land Rover whose side mirror is whistling past my ear on Maine Ave on Monday morning.

Just ring the bell, and pass with more care than you'd like. Whether or not you think I can hear you when i'm jogging, it's courtesy to give maximum passing clearance and a warning. That family that seemingly ignores your warning and bumbles all over the place -- that's what kids do. People are unpredictable selfish morons, no matter their mode choice. Just like you're the vulnerable party on the road, and ask that cars exercise a greater duty of care, perhaps we ought not expect that children out for a walk fall into single file echelon when they hear us coming.

I spent a year or so counting how many people warned me when passing while joggging on the MtV. About one out of eleven. I'll let you guess who the worst culprits are.

In other words, cyclists should treat peds on the trails as you would like cars to treat you on the roads. Being courteous to peds (many of whom are drivers) hopefully cuts down on the "all cyclists are jerks" attitude we see all too often.

I try create good will between all road users when I can and enjoy the ride. I stopped always being in a hurry long ago. On a bike I slow down to pass peds safely just like I do when driving a car to pass cyclists. It is practice what you preach.

My commute takes me on the Custis or CCT daily. You have to watch out for pedestrians, especially because they tend to initiate U-turns without warning. I call "bike left" almost always. (When I don't, I sometimes get an angry or negative reaction.) Calling "bike left" very seldom causes irritation or a problem, and often elicits an friendly wave. I think the problem with using a bell is it may be mistaken as saying "watch out." "Bike left" is very clear.

On the W&OD I use a bell and find that pedestrians without headphones attempt to move over. I usually smile and wave as well (it can't hurt). I'm not sure how many people know their left from their right anyhow when put on the spot.
I find it more annoying when I'm passed by a faster cyclist without a warning, which happens frequently. I guess even if I'm not riding slowly people feel the need to pass a cargo bike.

I've never had anybody indicate displeasure at the use of a bell. Maybe there is something to having a pleasant ring versus a "get the ell out of my way horn".

I do believe that all cyclists who use multi-paths should have a bell and use them. I find vocal announcements startling when I don't know somebody has been behind me and ineffective as well since the passer usually doesn't announce until they are already besides you in which case the point is moot.

I've had a couple of bells, steel and brass, and find the brass ones have a much nicer tone and carry much farther. I've had occasions where I've rung my bell 20 feet being a walker and have observed that another walker 50 feet ahead has also heard my bell.

We haven't taken bicycle bells seriously here which is probably why there are so few good bells to be found. Here is the one I'm currently using:

It has a nice strap that will fit any handlebar! And for you racers - it's easy to take off so when you so up for your group rides you won't be shamed :).

The story also highlights something I like to point out when people talk about cyclists treating pedestrians the same way drivers treat cyclists. And that is that I doubt that is true. If a driver hits a cyclist or pedestrian, they'll have a very bad day, but they'll almost surely walk about physically unharmed. If a cyclist hits a pedestrian or another cyclist they realize they'll probably be hurt

Washcycle - I think you are stretching the point too far here. When I have said that cyclists are equally as inconsiderate to pedestrians as the drivers we all complain about here are to us it is, to a large extent, because neither are taking into account the potential consequences of their actions.

One dictionary definition of consideration is:
thought, deliberation, reflection, contemplation, rumination, meditation; examination, inspection, scrutiny, analysis, discussion; attention, regard; formal cogitation.

The fact that the possibility of injury is more one-sideded with autos/cyclists doesn't lessen the fact that rude is rude.

JeffB, rude is rude. Some cyclists are rude. My point is that incentives matter. And - as drivers love to tell us - cyclists have a greater incentive to avoid crashes than drivers do. IMO, that must manifest itself in some way.

He's retired now, so, I'll tell the story. I was doing a group ride of the whole W&OD with a group of friends. Since various members rode at various speeds, we were spread pretty far out, so by the time I reached Vienna, I was with the back of the pack. My girlfriend (now wife) was ahead of us, out of sight, so I told the small bunch I was in that I was going to catch up to her and pulled away from the group. About a mile later, on a particularly straight section of the trail, I could see a jogger ahead of me with radio earphones on. When I was about 10 yards behind him, I called out "on your left" and merged over to the left side of the trail to pass. Just as I got _almost_ even with him, he does a U-Turn right into my path. I scream and slam on my brakes swerving even further to the left, assuming he would jump back to the right. But no, he dances around in front of me. Luckily, I had lost enough momentum by this point that there weren't any injuries, but we did bump forearms. I clipped out of my pedal and stared at him waiting for him to apologize, but he just glared at me. So, I asked, "What are you doing?" "I have the right of way." (Technically, true, but you have the right of way as a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but if you step out in front of a car that's already at the crosswalk, that driver is not at fault. You are.) I took a step towards him and pointed to his earphones. "I called out. You need to pay more attention to your surroundings." "I know. I heard you. I knew you were there. _I_ have the right of way." I lost it and went off on him. By this point, my friends had caught up to me, realized it was a bad situation (I was enraged) and physically pushed me on down the trail telling me to just ride on. I clipped in, and started to push off and he said it again. "I had the right of way." More yelling, more suggestions by my friends to ride on ensued. I finally left and caught up to my girlfriend a few miles later in Reston. We were taking a break on the benches there at Old Reston Ave and I was telling her the story of "this idiot jogger" and how I certainly didn't help the situation by screaming at him, but he was definitely in the wrong, etc etc. Then my friends caught up and started laughing at me. "Do you know who that was?" "no. who?" "Tom Davis. You just cursed out your congressman."

Now, admittedly, me screaming and cursing at him was not the best response I could have had, but I definitely felt in the right. The rules of the trail do say pedestrians have the right of way, but that does not give them the right to step into the direct path of a cyclist. _Especially_ doing a U-Turn. We think he really didn't hear me call out and was trying to save face about it.

And I, too, have had pedestrians get downright mad when I've called out "on your left" when passing. "JUST PASS ALREADY!!!" while waving their arms motioning for me to go around. I particularly find it odd when they do this right in front of one of the signs specifically saying to give an audible warning before passing.

The situation between bikers and pedestrian/joggers is still so much better than the warfare between automobile rovers (I reserve 'driver' for someone who knows what they are doing). We'll know we have sunk to their level when a walker/jogger moves to the left when you announce 'passing on your left.'

My point is that incentives matter. And - as drivers love to tell us - cyclists have a greater incentive to avoid crashes than drivers do. IMO, that must manifest itself in some way.

If for no other reason than self-preservation then yes - cyclists do have an incentive to avoid all crashes. But I'll dispute your notion that this is manifested to a greater degree by cyclists.

I believe in irrational markets and my experience shows that irrational cyclists are in abound. That is human nature.

What we need to do is move the societal norm of behavior exhibited on the paths to one where walkers have a pleasant atmosphere in which to stroll and all users are much safer.

Not the greatest safety problem for sure. But one that I encounter everyday.

I use my bell almost 100% of the time when I overtake on multiuse trails. I've not had anyone get annoyed with me for ringing it.
Headphones are an issue when pedestrians and worst of all other bikers wear them.
My perfect overtaking scenario is to ring my bell, the hiker, biker acknowledges they have heard my signal, I pass and thank them for their acknowledgement and we both part ways happy with the encounter. We may even say good day to each other.
Maybe I should start counting the frequency of this 'perfect' scenario. For me the acknowledgement doesn't happen that often, so without some sign that the person has heard us are we meant to then stop and tap them on the shoulder and ask if we can pass after they have taken the earphones off? Clearly not.
Not sure what the answer is. I just hope I don’t have a U turning encounter.

I ride the memorial bridge lots. I like my bell. I get Very Good reactions from joggers with the bell (better than "passing left" which is very confusing as the jogger steps to the left). Also, contrary to what is said above, because bells are high pitched, the CAN BE heard through earphones (assuming the volume isnt extremely high). And yes, I regularly see joggers doing crazy ivans on the bridge - scares me. I think we bikers have to politely keep talking to and educating other users of core bike paths (which the bridge is).

I find that saying "good morning/evening, On your left" helps. The first phrase alerts them you're there, and is friendly, so it doesn't feel like you're telling them to get out of your way.
I switched to a less loud bell now that I'm riding on a MUP more, because it seems friendlier, while still cutting through headphones (normally).

I still get some people reacting with hostility after they're startled. They're usually wearing headphones too loud., and it's their own darn fault.

I think we need separate, parallel trails for cyclists and pedestrians, and articles like this prove it. Why do trails always stick walkers and cyclists together? Because those are considered second- and third-class forms of transportation.

We cyclists seem to be perceived as "guests" wherever we venture to ride! Darren has it right on the money describing the jogger turned driver scenario, so we really can't afford to take an aggressive approach on the trail. The problem is that "trail cyclist" is actually a lumping of regular/ daily cyclists and the sometimes/one time "cyclists" (who are realistically more "drivers on bikes" than cyclist). Both groups represent cycling, unfortunately. And yes of course this same (mis)representation occurs with road bicycling also, though that is really another discussion with it's own set of complexities.

Of course the solution is to not be trying to go fast when people are present. It's that simple. Move to the road to ride fast. And yes, use a bell. I have folks pass me constantly without notice, and it's ridiculous. But I guess they aren't used to "honking" before they pass while driving, so it's not natural to them. I've been through a couple bells to find the right tone that isn't too alarming, while still being alerting. With my kids onboard (cargo bike) they offer the best notice by either singing or fighting. I add a simple wave of the hand and sometimes a "thanks" when I pass too, and I think it does make a difference.

The trails are truly for any and all, including kids learning to ride and grandparents out for a walk. I say this as a daily user of the trails, for utility riding purposes. It's that common word "share". The (sad) fact is if it weren't for all those other users we probably wouldn't have any trails. As cycling increases in popularity there will definitely be more tension on the trails, and causing something to have to give. The question would be what. Perhaps the Georgetown Branch/Purple Line designers should take this into account.

Thanks for starting this discussion. I think part of the problem is that people have different ideas of proper etiquette and different expectations of how others should behave, as well as different personal preferences. Though I don’t ride the trails that often, I personally don’t mind being passed – with plenty of room – by another cyclist without an audible warning. Then again, I also take care to ride as far to the right as a can to stay out of the way. But I did this to another cyclist on the CCT once, only to have him give me a snide “How ‘bout an on your left” in a tone that was not that cool. I honestly didn’t realize that it bikes are expected to do that every single time you pass someone. That really is kind of a drag on a crowded trail.

What about passing someone in a bike lane, if move into the traffic lane and pass on the left, is announcing yourself to the other biker appropriate in this case?

Max, I agree about moving to the road - at times. If you're out for exercise or recreation and want to ride fast, the trail is not a good option. But what about commuters? You can't just decided to ride on the GW Parkway - that's illegal. And there really is no alternative to the MVT. If trails are going to be pitched as bike commuting tools - as they are, then we need to consider that people don't want to commute at 10mph. It would be great if we could build 11 foot wide bike trails and 8 foot wide ped trails in the same corridor - but so often the space just isn't there.

The FHWA report is really important. I was talking to Anne Lusk last week (in preparation for a public meeting where I got beat up over a proposal to put a trail in a passive park) and she is arguing that walkers and bicyclists are best separated on trails.

On high demand corridors I definitely agree, even though it might not be possible. It's hard very hard to find the land for trails as it is.

It's what I call "designing conflict in" because I agree that bikes and peds can be just as much of a conflict as bikes and cars. It's all relative.

High use trails need to be at least 14-16 feet wide, based on the Shared Use Path LOS numbers.

Look at the CCT trail numbers and the peak figures in Bethesda and work the numbers...

Max, you said "As cycling increases in popularity there will definitely be more tension on the trails, and causing something to have to give. The question would be what. Perhaps the Georgetown Branch/Purple Line designers should take this into account."

I agree totally with you. If the CCT is finished into downtown Silver Spring with the Purple Line, it's use will increase dramatically. But "Purple Line designers" at MTA are already aware and looking to make the future trail 12' wide and more where possible, IF the local Montgomery County officials set that as a requirement. MTA is doing the design, but Montgomery County is responsible to set the design requirements for the trail.

The problem is that Montgomery County planners and politicians are still reluctant to accept what nearly everyone else knows about trail design - that 10' is just not enough width for a busy trail in an urban area where there is a wide mix of users. Also some neighborhood based groups like "Save the Trail" will oppose any widening and paving, since widening will mean losing more trees and paving will give the trail a character that is less like a quiet, neighborhood waliking trail.

"It would be great if we could build 11 foot wide bike trails and 8 foot wide ped trails in the same corridor - but so often the space just isn't there."

As we all know, for most of the MVT the space IS there -- the National Park Service is just unwilling to despoil the land by using it (whereas, having a massive car highway there is A-OK). It all comes back to cycling being second-/third-class. We need to talk about changing those priorities.

I find it very surprising that others report no negative reaction to the ring of a bell or the words "on your left." I have been the recipient of multiple f bombs and one-finger salutes -- primarily from headphone-wearing joggers -- when giving notice of my intent to pass on the MVT. Negative reactions along these lines and the sheer number of headphone-wearing pedestrians have led me to reserve an audible warning for situations where I _know_ they can hear me or I can _see_ that they are straying to the right. Otherwise, If I have a bailout option, I pass without giving warning.

8 years of daily bike commuting on trails, never once gotten a negative reaction to my bell. A few folks startled, but that's it. 8 years of jogging on the trails has convinced me that bicyclists do far more damage to our reputations by treating other users just like we are treated on the roads.

Signal as soon as you're in earshot, give as much berth as is available, and just hold back a few seconds rather than shooting through gaps. It might be a 'drag', but when you're piloting the bigger faster vehicle, err in favor of care and over-exercising caution. Any of this sound familiar?

But naturally, just like drivers, walkers, policemen, priests, or anyone else, we can't be relied upon to act with collective regard for everyone's well-being, and only in our own self interests. So we have to resort to 'paving our way' to harmony with separated bike/ped lanes that set bad precedents, but are realistically going to be necessary.

The runner turned into the path of the cyclist without looking. 100% the runner’s fault. People need to take reasonability for themselves and not pass that responsibility onto others.

I agree that a bell (or a verbal warning) might have kept this from happening and that it is polite and courteous for cyclists to do so (and I do), but that does not take away the fact that ALL trail or road users MUST take responsibility for their own actions.

This is why Team In Training participants are not allowed to use headphones on our training runs. Thankfully I was new to running when I joined TnT so breaking the habit was relatively easy. I think runners would be shocked at how big a difference it makes in hearing even high-speed cyclists (who shouldn't be riding that fast on mixed-use trails, IMO, but have no cycle-only alternatives) coming up behind them.

That said, anyone making a U-turn without checking over their shoulder first, sort of deserves what they get. It's common sense, which, I know, is sadly uncommon.

Of course I always ring my bell before passing and wave to those who give me the same courtesy. 95 percent of the time things go quite smoothly that way.

One thing I sometimes do as a utility cyclist on a trail is have my earbuds below my helmet straps, and have the right bud in my ear and the left one popped out so I can hear overtaking cyclists and other ambient noise cues. Usually I find I am listening to news or talk radio at low volume so I can hear quite well. Has anyone else done this, and do they find it works, as well?

On the road I go headphone-free since relying on ambient noise cues is much more important (overtaking trucks, etc.)

I occasionally carry my boom box on my shoulder while I ride my fixie. It works well since I only need one hand to brake, though I'll admit there is a slight blind spot. I'll have to make you a mixte tape.

I can't wait for WABAs "How To Ring Your Bell" video.

Back to seriousness,

In this moment, with the trails and users as they are, we have no option but to slow down. I'll take a congested 'drag' of a trail ride any day over any kind of car drive/ride. And while I know for many there are practicality issues with that statement, I have to ask are users really finding usage at weekday rush hour times to equate to peak use times? I really don't know the MVTs (or any VA trails) weekday patterns, so I'd like to hear.

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