When a Bike Bell Rings…

…Nothing happens at all.

When a Bell Rings...

Nope, absolutely nothing. Even with the loudest, biggest bells I can find nobody hears me coming on my bike.

I’d get a horn, but I really don’t want to contribute to the stress of the city. It would make much more sense to do the reverse.


Next Post
Previous Post

You may also like


  • Opus the Poet August 9, 2013   Reply →

    I’m getting an AirZound for my next bike. I’m getting tired of shouting and breaking rear view mirrors…

  • Baron von Drais August 9, 2013   Reply →

    You may get a laugh from this article about bicycle bells and they reaction they get in different cultures…

  • Andy M-S August 9, 2013   Reply →

    At least in New Haven, find that my bell does get a reaction from drivers–but sometimes I have to ring it furiously to be heard (and mine is large and LOUD). Air conditioning has ensured that many people drive with their windows up and radios on…so that makes bike bells much less effective.

    On the trails, I find the bell to be very useful–lots of people seem to actually *like* it!

  • RichM August 9, 2013   Reply →

    The topic of bells/calling out “On your left!”/etc. comes up frequently on many bike sites. I’m always amazed at the amount of regional variation there is when it comes to the reaction to them. Around here in upstate NY, we have the awesome Erie Canal towpath, a MUP used by a healthy mix of cyclists and pedestrians, young and old. Calling out “On your left!” when passing is standard procedure. I have never, in decades of riding, ever have someone misinterpret it. And yet I read elsewhere that when cyclists try it the pedestrians tend to move TO the left right into the cyclist’s path.

    Bells also work very well too. 😉

    • Carl August 15, 2013  

      I’m surprised your “on your left” is so effective. Here in the Albany area, if it’s heard at all over the headphones/cellphone, it causes a jump to the left about 80% of the time. I only ring a bell or call out now if I think the pedestrian I’m passing is unpredictable, because it rarely helps.

      Otherwise, I only use my bell when passing people on my morning commute’s bridge crossing, where bikes are forced onto the sidewalk. It still generally causes alarm and jumping about, no matter how much warning I give.

  • RichM August 9, 2013   Reply →

    Ahem, the last sentence would be more clearly stated as “When yet I read that elsewhere when cyclists try it the pedestrians tend to move TO the left right into the cyclist’s path.” :-)

  • Andrew August 9, 2013   Reply →

    Although many perceive it as rude, I find that the single most effective (as well as cheapest) way to alert peds and cars is to give quick, loud yelps. I learned it from a messenger from NYC named Skeletor.

  • fred_dot_u August 9, 2013   Reply →

    The bell in the automobile is a great idea. People wave at me in my velomobile and I use my wheel-well mounted bell in response, but the AirZound2 is for motor vehicle drivers. My wife’s factory electric Rav4EV is so quiet that we had to arrive at a different solution from the horn, which was an electric trolley bell. It’s great fun to be behind neighborhood walkers who don’t hear her arrival and to press the bell button. Instead of an angry pedestrian, she gets a smile and they move out of the way.

  • John Romeo Alpha August 9, 2013   Reply →

    Drivers here are usually cocooned in air conditioning, music, and cell phone distraction, but once in a while a loud, intense yell breaks through enough to stir some slight response. OTOH my dinger bell sometimes scares the bejesus out of pedestrians, similar to an unexpected grunt from a Sasquatch right behind you in the middle of a quiet wood, so I make a half-hearted attempt to judge their skittishness on approach, and if they look more like a shaky kitten than a bold race-walker, I will sing out “bicycle” in a friendly tone, which only occasionally startles the shaky kitties.

  • CPTJohnC August 9, 2013   Reply →

    I use the bell or my voice 90% of the time (I find a good yell quite effective in many traffic situations, and it is MUCH faster than going for even a convenient, bar mounted, solution). The Airzound is great, though, for the really hairy situations of cars that are clearly not looking… presuming I had warning and saw it coming. I also have been known to use it on rare occasions when pedestrians just ignore my bell. I feel badly, sort of.

  • Rondi Watson August 9, 2013   Reply →

    I pretty much use my bike bell for one reason – to greet people when I’m riding through neighborhoods. Kids definitely notice it, even if no one else does.

  • Wendy August 9, 2013   Reply →

    Incredi-bell on the right side for peds, Airzound on the left for motorists, coyotes and peds with earbuds.. I ride a trike, so I can slow down and say hi just as I’m passing by. The Incredi-bell is so loud I ring it about twenty paces back, or if it’s crowded, I ring it much closer behind them with a finger over the bell to dampen the noise. It is still quite audible.

  • Echo August 9, 2013   Reply →

    Yes! Exactly! I love this post! The ineffectiveness of a bell made me get a hornit. On less busy roads it probably won’t be necessary, but when I go closer to downtown Chicago? We’ll see how it goes. Haven’t really use it yet. Hope that it works!

  • Ryan Grimm August 9, 2013   Reply →

    I put air horns on my motorcycle for this very reason….I may mount a set I’m ‘Steampunking’ to my bike as well!
    Sure makes them sit up and take notice!

  • Rebecca Albrecht August 9, 2013   Reply →

    In the Netherlands, bike bells are used by cyclists on the “Fietspad”, which is any bike infrastructure, to alert cyclists to move over so a faster cyclist can overtake a slower cyclist. There is never a need to use them with pedestrians because they are given their own walking paths and do not use the fietspad.
    Here in the USA I use my airzounds to warn motorists who are doing something dangerous in my line of travel. I rarely use my bike bell. It startles pedestrians and motorists can not hear it.

  • Kevin Love August 9, 2013   Reply →

    My Pashley Roadster Sovereign came factory equipped with a two-tone “ding-dong” bell. Quite nice. The bell sounds a minor third. For those like myself who are Army veterans, the minor third is the first two notes of “Last Post,” so this brings back memories.

    Here is a very nice bicycle bell review:


  • Psy August 10, 2013   Reply →

    I know a few people that use Airzounds while riding in the city, and while I always thought it seemed a bit rude it certainly seems to get the attention of motorists!

    Around here, even bells on MUPs do nothing. I have to give the nicest “Passing on your left!” I can manage in order for people to even consider moving.

  • cycler August 11, 2013   Reply →

    I’m a bit interested in the Orp horn- it has two settings- Excuuuuuse You! and OHMYGODYOUALMOSTKILLEDME!! Plus it’s a light.
    I use my bell almost exclusively for pedestrians, and yell Oi! which is nice and percussive, and cannot be mistaken for anything obscene, or “Heads Up,” with a nice popped P at the end.

  • Ange August 12, 2013   Reply →

    Screeching brakes is the best thing I have ever tried. Everyone, even people in their cars, stop and pay attention. It’s awesome. I used to think I needed to get it fixed, but I totally changed my mind.

    • William Furr September 3, 2013  

      I know! Brake squeal is a feature, not a problem. I found it very handy, but now I have new wheels and new brakes and nothing squeals anymore.

  • Daniel August 12, 2013   Reply →

    I’ve been thinking a need a bell for the commute in Cambridge but maybe I need a really loud bell. Maybe a fog horn, like the portable one kayakers use.

    Following on cycler, I like Heads Up, which I use in all sorts of circumstances.

  • Sara Kazemi August 13, 2013   Reply →

    Currently waiting on both the Loud Bicycle Horn and Orp Smart Horn (both Kickstarters) to make it into my hands. :)

Leave a comment