Is a bell necessary on a bicycle?

WARNING: Let's hear it for bike bells.
WARNING: Let's hear it for bike bells.

Knock knock!

Who's there?


Isabel who?

Is a bell necessary on a bike?

Well I think they are. Having recently taken to walking the pavements and footpaths of Christchurch with my new dog, I'm surprised at the absence of these simple warning devices.

I'm not going to raise any of the usual issues about who has the right of way on footpaths and cycle ways; I just think that a bike bell warning used by cyclists as they approach pedestrians, especially from behind, would give we users of "Shanks's pony" a chance to move-over and let the pedallers through.

The ring of a bicycle bell is not threatening, but shrill enough to cut through traffic noise and much more pleasant than the, "Why don't you get out of the bl**dy way" that I've had directed at me at least three times since Christmas, along with a simple hand-signal, usually when the two-wheeler has already barged past.

We apologise to the hurrumphing cyclist who tangled his handlebars in Ruby's lead. But if we'd known he was bearing down on us, by way of a bell or a call like a golfer's "Fore!", we could have helped out by making room for his overtaking manoeuvre.

A bell would have other uses too. Now that it seems to be accepted practice to cycle on footpaths, and the wrong way down one-way streets as well as to slalom through pedestrians at intersection crosswalks or shopping malls like Christchurch's Re:Start container complex, the ringing of a bell could make things work so much more smoothly.

It works both ways of course, I give as gentle a "bip" as possible if I'm in a car, coming up to an intersection to use the marked left-hand turning lane when a cyclist is using it to go straight ahead. I usually do it just to let them know I'm there, before indicating left, backing off, letting them pass through the intersection ahead of me in their commandeered lane, and then quietly go about my business. It must work, as more often than not, the same hand-signal I mentioned before is employed, along with some distinctive Anglo-Saxon verbs, nouns and adjectives. They knew I was there and that's important in traffic.

There's a huge array of bike-bells out there. Cyclists even use them for customising, putting some individuality onto their machines. Actually, in New Zealand such individuality would be achieved by having a bell on a bike in the first place, as such devices are as rare as a pedaller's hand-signal.

We found one great outlet, on a site called that appears to offer everything from the double-action chrome-topped "ring-ring" bell I remember from school days, to the lightweight flick-type bells, that just go "ting!" Brass and alloy finish can be had, as well as those with enamel printed panels.

Bikers could also get a bell to match their helmets, plus one for the cat while they're at it!


Bill Davidson, the great-grandson of Harley-Davidson co-founder William A Davidson, is visiting New Zealand. He is coming here as part of the brand's 110th birthday celebrations in Auckland from February 14 till 16, at the 23rd NZ National Harley Owners Group (HOG) Rally.

Thousands are expected to flock to the Ellerslie Events Centre for the rally, as part of the brand's year-long anniversary celebration. The weekend is in parallel with a number of similar events in cities across the world - from Auckland and Melbourne to Rome and Milwaukee - showcasing Harley-Davidson and its riders and fans who come together to embrace the brand.

The vice-president of the Harley-Davidson Museum, Bill Davidson, says, "I am looking forward to the New Zealand National HOG Rally and joining fans in New Zealand in celebrating [the] 110th anniversary".

The rally will incorporate guided tours of the Auckland region, drag bike simulators, tech talks, Harley demo rides, rider formation displays, Chapter Games, local and international tattoo artists and the renowned Saturday Thunder Run.

Each evening will feature Give It A Girl, the New Zealand band that includes Margaret Ulrich, Annie Crummer, Debbie Harwood and Sharon O'Neil. Tickets for the public are on sale at:

Skope meet for V8s The theme of this weekend's - February 3 and 4 - Skope historic and classic motor race event at Ruapuna's Powerbuilt Raceway is dedicated to the V8 engine and its application to race cars, from vintage New Zealand specials to the raucous Formula 5000s to an outstanding selection of V8 muscle cars. There are exceptions to the V8 power theme, but when they take the form of the fabulous ex-Stig Blomqvist five-cylinder Audi Quattro from the 80s and the famous Paul Fahey Mk 1 Escort, no-one will complain about that.

As well as the original PDL Mustang, and the ex-Pine Pac Racing Camaro, there is a significant contribution from outside New Zealand, with a number of drivers travelling from Australia, Europe, Hong Kong, the United States and Canada bringing mainly historic single-seaters including at least 25 Formula 5000s. An international field of Formula Juniors is also featured, presented in largely unadulterated state and near original condition, to provide a 50s and 60s motorsport history.

The Press