Knock knock ?
#GetStuffedDunc; Who’s there ?
#GetStuffedDunc; Isabelle who ?
Spokes(wo)man; Isabelle really necessary on a bike ?
The answer is "No ! Bad Duncan" and to smack him with a rolled-up newspaper, but #GetStuffedDunc keeps pushing his bike-bell placebo.
A motorist in their car is isolated from their environment and insulated against the weather and a certain level of noise. I’d be stunned if a driver anywhere near me could hear my frantic little ‘ting-ting’ over their engine, other engines and possibly their radio as they impassively drive by.
The woman distracted by holding and talking on her phone who nearly hit me on Monday night sure as hell didn’t hear my bell. But she damn sure heard me banging on the roof of her car while bellowing “Get off your fucking phone you idiot.”
I hadn't been so frightened since, well, the last time a motorist nearly killed me so they could have a quick chat about their dinner plans.
So the mandatory bell law isn’t there to protect cyclists.
Is it there to protect pedestrians ?
All I can attest to is pedestrian behaviours I’ve seen when overtaking walkers; you optimistically start ringing before you get too close, in the hope you’ve caught a fellow human being with;
a) good hearing and;
b) no distractions/headphones and that they can;
c) hear you over the nearby traffic/construction noise/conversation with another walker, and;
d) they actually realise what it is they’re hearing.
There’s an amusing but possibly apocryphal story (and hey, that isn’t going to stop me sharing it ) of a couple walking on a shared path, and when the approaching cyclist starting ringing his bell, she stopped still and blocked the path out of surprise but he took out his phone to check for incoming texts.
The reactions to a bike bell range from fright if they’re have a lovely little day-dream as they walk along, to affronted indignation that you’re making a noise and interrupting their morning commune with nature – and in the early morning sunrise with the birds twittering and what-not, I really do empathise with that view point. When I walk I do so sans-headphones and I’m looking at peoples' gardens and dogs and generally enjoying the neighbourhood.
And there are obstacles for who the bells tolling mean bugger–all, unleashed dogs, kids playing ball-games, toddlers adorably learning to walk who are inexplicably allowed to toddle themselves down bike-paths.
The bell from a passing adult just scares them and they act even more unpredictably than human adults.
I’ve seen unpredictable lurches right into your path, jumps sideways, people who panic and move directly into your path, hands on heart, hands clutching pearls as if you’re triggering an attack; seen it all.
So bells really aren’t working for pedestrians either.
But it’s a $106 fine for a cyclist without one.
Excessive for something that doesn't serve either of the purposes #GetStuffedDunc insisted they perform. The one function a bell truly does perform is as a placebo - theres no need for dedicated bike infrastructure if we just ding little bells at each other - delusional. Bike riders deserve, in that they are an active transport solution who pay taxes, to have safe riding infrastructure. Ditto pedestrians deserve safe and peaceful footpaths. The one sector of society government seems loathe to to make share their toys are the already heavily subsidised drivers of cars.
And there seems to be a real backlash by pedestrians against bike-bells. Now, whether this is merely the straw grasped by an anti-bike sector who will complain about anything as they see their world changing around them; or whether it's a genuine protest from people who object to having bells or car-horns sounded at them as they amble about their own business - it's really difficult to tell.
The last thing I want to do is upset a pedestrian; despite everything I write, I actually like to get along with my fellow human-beings; it's just that I won't stand for attempted bullying or careless assault, and I won't quietly sit by and see a dangerous, uneconomic and unhealthy method of transport given preferential treatment because that's the way it's been for the last 50 or 60 years.
Back to the bells, the bells ...
In my experience, both as a ringer and a ring-ee, a human voice is best, with a “Hello, bike passing,” or a “ ‘Scuse me”.
Ringing a bell also seems imperious, like an Edwardian dowager ringing her little bell for the maid to bring tea, whereas human verbal interaction seems kind of nice, bit of a chat, "Scuse me, oh hello, cute dog/baby/shoes thanks/cheers" ! as you pass each other. Sometimes all of those in one interaction.
But sometimes, nothing is going to work.
My worst and most painful crash has been avoiding a lovely old couple walking along the shared path, holding hands, like we all hope we will be when we’re their age.
They were holding hands and stretched out took up just over two-thirds of the pathway. Sigh.
I started ringing a while out; no acknowledgment. I kept ringing, nothing. I was getting a little close and the crumbling, sandy sides off the bike path were not looking promising for riding around them. I kept ringing, and started calling out "bike" … "bike".
I slowed right down, still calling out "bike" from about only a few metres away at this stage.
I thought, there IS enough room to squeeze by without stopping, but I don’t want to scare them, I slowed right down, still calling out "bike" and started towards the gap.
And then they moved.
They stopped, took a step backwards and started diagonally across the path – right into my already limited gap.
I made the altruistic choice not to break their combined four hips, went off the edge of the path, which crumbled under me, tipping me sideways into a tree and dropping my bike down a 30cm fall which became a rolling hillside.
I was gamely hanging onto a tree branch to stop myself falling down the hill, but back then I rode Emmeline clipped in, and there’s no way you can hang from a tree and unclip while supporting the weight of your 30kg bike with your ankles. Bugger it.
I let go of the tree.
And I fell hard and flat and twisted as my heavy-bastard of a bike fell hard on top of me and pinned me to the sand, and of course all the pointy metal things stick into your ribs, kidneys, whatever.
I had no traction to claw away, no ability to untwist and then twist the right way to unclip. Sprocketman rode up just at the right time to lift my bike off me, remove my shoe so I could straighten one leg, and then reach over and take my other shoe off so I could stand; which I couldn’t because both ankles had been painfully wrenched the wrong way.
The old woman of the pair looked at me, she was clearly annoyed. “We didn’t know you were there.”
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding me. That's the response you're going with ?
The old man of the couple was more sympathetic and actually bothered to ask if I was ok.
His lady-wife sailed off to their car and didn’t give me another look. Miserable old shunt.
In hindsight I’d have chosen to have squeezed past on her side yelling “BIKE” into her ear-trumpet, possibly triggering a heart attack, but hey, I was using my government-sanctioned bell, so no blame attaches to me.
I spent a coupla hundred dollars on physio bills before I could walk straight again and another hundred or so on bike repairs.
Thanks for that.
So I’m now the slightly embarrassed owner of a bike-mounted air-horn.
If this mandatory bell thing is going to be another justification for not giving us proper separated infrastructure; If this is going to be another thing to harass and fine cyclists over, then it's going to be something that can save my life, not just some box-ticking exercise for a clueless politician.
I've gotta say, in six lanes of traffic, it COMMANDS attention. I've seen bus drivers hesitate when they hear it. I'll just use it with caution around pensioners.
Shout out to Ian with thanks for the spare trigger.
C’mon, pull me over for a mandatory bike bell check, I double-dog dare ya.