What’s the best way to alert other road users to your presence while cycling – bell, horn, whistle, voice? Here’s what you need to know.
New bikes in the UK are sold with bells. It’s a legal requirement. The requirement relates to the sale of the bike, not the use of the bike. You don’t have to have a bell on your bike when you’re commuting. But should you?
The Highway Code says: ‘You should… Be considerate of other road users, taking extra care around blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Use your bell when necessary to signal you are nearby.’ The word ‘must’ isn’t used, indicating that it’s not law. Moreover, the Code’s recommendation can be met with anything that provides an audible warning – your voice, a bulb horn, a kazoo.
Before considering the options, there’s a couple of important caveats. Firstly, a bell or horn is not a substitute for good road positioning and considerate behaviour. Secondly, your first priority in an emergency is to brake or take evasive action and not to sound-off; anything that delays those responses could do more harm than good.
Ideal for alerting pedestrians, horse riders, or other cyclists, particularly on traffic-free routes. It’s hands-free, instantly available, and you can set the volume – and content – to suit the situation. ‘Good morning!’, ‘Cyclist behind’, ‘Excuse me’, and ‘STOP!’ are just some of your options. Car drivers won’t hear you, however.
That bell your bike came with? If you’re likely to encounter pedestrians (drivers won’t hear you), keep it. It’s a polite warning that instantly identifies you as a cyclist. These three bells are particularly good.
• Trigger bell, RRP £9.99. Can be positioned anywhere on the handlebar so you can ring the bell while braking rather than instead of braking.
• Pashely Ding-Dong, RRP from £10. The traditional chromed metal bell that comes in two sizes, large – which is louder – or small.
• Timber! MTB Bell, RRP £24.99. Press the switch and trail vibration will make it ring continuously to alert walkers.
No, not a squeezy bulb horn (although one might raise a smile with pedestrians), but something loud enough to be heard by oblivious drivers pulling out in front of you. The high volume will startle pedestrians and may ‘up the ante’ with aggressive drivers.
• Samui Air Zound XL, RRP £22.55. Available from various retailers, this rechargeable 115 decibel horn works via compressed air, which you top up with a bike pump.
• Hornit db140, RRP £19.99. Even louder than an Air Zound, this 140 decibel horn sounds a bit like a ray gun. The trigger can be set near a brake for easy access. Runs on two AAA batteries.
Avoid. You’ve got to raise a whistle to your mouth to use it, and you’ll then have a lump of metal or plastic between your teeth in the event you fall off your bike…