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I have a bell on my commuter bike. I use it when I pass a pedestrian wearing earbuds. It is my unscientific observation that a bell works better than voice on someone whose mind is on their music or preoccupied with a podcast. Otherwise, I use my voice to alert pedestrians.

I never use my bell to alert drivers. Far too much delay. A desperate yell is quicker and louder.

If a bell is good, a canned air horn is better. Oh how many I have been tempted to mount one on my bike!

Kolo, have I got a "bell" for you:


The BAC took the position that cyclists should pass at a speed and distance such that ringing a bell would not be needed

This is why I hate the signs on trails that say "warn before passing." No, don't pass when it's not safe to pass. Do you honk your horn when you pass someone in a car? If you feel the need to warn the person you're passing, you're passing unsafely.

Thanks for the plug. I’m glad my good deeds are remembered in the permanent record.

Contrarian, one reason for an audible warning is to alert the other trail user to your presence so they don't do something like a Crazy Ivan or a sudden left turn. Sure, people shouldn't do these things without looking, but they do. And if someone turns in front of you when you're passing, that's dangerous at any speed.

Some riders (many, judging from the WABF) seem to get offended if they are not given an audible warning. I'm not one of these people, but it's another reason to consider giving a warning.

Always warn before passing. It's alarming to the point of inconsiderateness to be passed silently. More importantly, it's a trail rule, so as long as everyone does it there is a universal set of behaviors and expectations. If you hear a bell, you know what's happening. If you don't, you know what isn't.

I don't have a bell and generally find it best to approach pedestrians from behind very slowly and to say something like, "Good morning" or "Excuse me." However, I don''t generally ride on multi-use trails and might find a bell more convenient if I did. I agree it's safer, more polite, and less ventricular fibrillation-inducing, than a silent pass.

Kolo, the air horn needs to be removable so you can stick it right in a motor vehicle window. Drivers stay honked at for a while after that.

My wife and I were once busted by the MD Natural Resources Police for not having a bell on our boat. The one we have now is a beauty, but it's too big for the bike.

I don't find it any more alarming to be passed silently than to have a bell ring behind me. In fact, I think the bell is more startling. However, the bell/call is still safer because the person being passed is aware of you and may decide not to do something erratic.* I always look before turning, but not everyone does. I suppose if someone called a pass and I had to dodge a walnut or something, I would dodge right instead of left, so that would be helpful.

*We'll leave out for the moment the people who jump or amble left when you call your pass. Perhaps when the convention of calling passes becomes the norm, there will be fewer of these.

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