As Easy As Riding A Bike
Well it should be, shouldn’t it?
Posted on July 25, 2018
There’s recently been some silly-season noise about making the use of bells compulsory in our newspaper of record, The Times.
Frothing gibberish on Page 3 of The Times today. Remember when this paper took cycling safety seriously?
This story seems to have been based entirely on five written questions from the MP Julian Lewis.
Re @thetimes article about bicycle bells, it is based on 5 parliamentary questions posed by Julian Lewis (MP for New Forest, Conservative) to @transportgovuk .
All 5 receive 1 answer from Transport Minister @Jesse_Norman
The non-committal response from the Minister has been spun into a story; the Minister in turn dismissed it.
But let’s (charitably) take this seriously, just for a moment. What does ‘mandatory use of bells’ actually mean? Am I supposed to ding every time a pedestrian hoves into view? In a town or a city, my bell would be ringing relentlessly. Let’s also bear in mind that plenty of people will object, often quite aggressively, to the ringing of a bell, interpreting it as akin to the honking of a car horn. A basic starting principle – before any of this nonsense ever gets anywhere near legislation – would have to involve getting some basic agreement and consensus about what people actually want and expect, when it comes to a form of audible cycling warning (or even whether they want people making a noise at all). It you can’t get the general public to agree, which I would imagine is more than likely, then there’s no point even embarking on legislation in the first place.
In any case, the general issue of bells, warnings and ‘silent rogue cyclists’ is symptomatic of basic design failure. I’ve probably cycled at least 500 miles in the Netherlands over the last five or six years. Not a huge amount, but enough to get a good flavour of the country. In all that distance – in cities, in towns, through villages, across the countryside – I can’t honestly remember ever having to ring my bell to warn someone walking that I was approaching. Not once.