Isabell necessary on a bike – or not!

September 17, 2014 § 1 Comment


I’m confused – and all I know for certain is that headline’s not quite right but I wanted to make use of the old joke while I was on the subject of bicycle bells. I suppose what I’m really getting at is – why aren’t cyclists legally obliged to put a bell on their handlebars?

The reason for the interest is two-fold:

  • I live in Windsor where plenty of people cycle and one of them nearly rode into me the other day – he didn’t have a bell and I didn’t hear him coming;
  • I’m thinking of buying a bike so I’ve been doing a bit of research;

What I’ve found out so far is that bells are NOT required by law and are left up to the cyclist’s discretion. But – and I would suggest this a HUGE and ENORMOUS BUT – bells are absolutely a requirement at point of sale!!!  This seems crazy.

Mr and Mrs Bicycle Retailer have to make sure that every bike they sell is complete with bell so that it meets requirements set out by the British Standards Institute although Mr and Mrs Bicycle Owner can do what they like with it as soon as they’ve bought it.

I’ve looked at what a few cyclist bloggers say about bells – and it isn’t pleasant. Bells get bad press from the cycling community. One view is that bells sound rude and intrusive. You could say the same about car horns but if they allow someone to get out of the way and avoid collision, who cares! The cyclists who blog have a real passion for cycling – and almost certainly the confidence to use the road rather than ride on the pavement and it’s the pavement-type of cyclist that need the bell most.

  • The pavement is designed for pedestrians who are good at dodging other pedestrians but aren’t expecting and don’t always hear, bicycles: that’s the real intrusion having bikes on our pavements! (It’s also illegal to ride on pavements, my research has taught me.)
  • Cyclists who use pavements do so because they lack confidence and while that remains the case it makes very good sense – for them and anyone around – to have a warning system (bell).

In an era when more and more people are cycling and you can attach gadgets such a phone holder, heart rate monitor, speedometer, activity monitor to your handlebars – to name a few – there must be room for the humble bell. Whatever the law say, sense should prevail!


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§ One Response to Isabell necessary on a bike – or not!

  • Stuart says:

    I know exactly where you’re coming from on this one . . .

    Last summer I invested in a American-made Schwinn beach cruiser pedal cycle to get a bit of exercise while using the flat in Bournemouth. (I know, I know . . . but it’s a really neat black colour, with chunky tyres, and a cup holder for the morning latte, or a can of Schlitz if you prefer).

    I had no intention of using the bike on the road, confining myself instead to the five or six mile promenade that runs unbroken under the cliffs from Sandbanks to Hengistbury Head.

    Now, Schwinn bikes are minimalist in the extreme, and in the States they come without bells or whistles (literally). No lights, mud guards, carrier racks, saddlebags or cable brakes. You stop yourself by pedalling backwards, which takes a little getting used to believe me. Think a pedal-pushing version of a stripped-down Harley hog. (I know, I know . . .)

    However, the friendly man in the Bournemouth bike shop informed me that British laws compelled him to sell the bike to me complete with (deep breath): rear cable brake to handlebars, rear light, reflective pedals, chain guard, mud guards and yes . . . a bell. All of which I could legally remove the minute I left the shop!

    In fact, the only option I have left on is the bell, as I have to share the aforementioned promenade with a dopey collection of dogs, kids, other cyclists, in-line skaters, skateboarders and near-deaf pedestrians . . . nothing personal, Julie!

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