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Cycling, whether it be for your daily commute or for pleasure, is a simple form of urban mobility. That being said, does your bike need to have a bell when you are riding? Is it a legal requirement?
Knowing your rights as a cyclist and responsibilities within adhering to the law can make all the difference.
So what does the law say exactly?
Is It Illegal to Ride a Bike Without a Bell?
It is not illegal to ride a bicycle without a bell in the UK and the USA. However, in other countries, such as Northern Ireland and Australia, having a bicycle with a bell is a legal requirement with severe fines facing people cycling with out one.
Just as there is often confusion surrounding whether or not you require a bicycle helmet, and whether or not these actually make your riding experience safer, the same confusion lies around bicycle bells globally too. Here are the laws you need to keep note of:
Bicycle Bell Law UK
Rule 66 of the Highway Code states that cyclists must let others know where they are when necessary. For example ‘by ringing your bell if you have one’. The if is key here; having or using a bicycle bell is therefore not a mandatory legal requirement in the UK.
It is recommended that cyclists equip a bicycle bell, and all UK stores will are required to equip one upon sale, but it is up to you whether you choose to use it or not.
Bicycle Bell Law USA
A bicycle bell is a legal requirement in some US states, such as New York, Georgia, New Jersey, Indiana and South Carolina, but not in other states. It is important to note that some local jurisdictions may require that you have a bell fitted.
Besides that, a bicycle bell is not a legal requirement across much of the USA, yet is is important to always check the laws of the local area you may be riding in.
Bicycle Bell Laws Around the World
Whether you need to legally have a bicycle bell or not can vary across the globe, so it is essential to check the local rules and regulations – and your bicycle itself – before cycling in a new country.
Of the 195 countries globally, some of which legally require you to have a bicycle bell are as follows: Holland, Australia, Northern Ireland, Germany, and some Canadian states. This is not a definitive list and the regulations surrounding bicycle bells are constantly changing, so make sure to check the area’s laws before you travel with your bicycle.
If you do plan to travel with your bicycle, after making the necessary checks, make sure to have the essentials you may require should you run into an emergency during your commute or adventure.
Should Bikes Have Bells?
Whether or not bikes should have bells is a matter of opinion, unless you live somewhere in which it is a legal requirement. Arguably, the use of a bicycle bell is there to improve the safety of yourself, other cyclists and pedestrians and is encouraged.
As previously mentioned, Rule 66 of the Highway Code suggests that it is ‘recommended’ that a bicycle bell be fitted to make others aware of where you are on the road. If you know that you are going to be cycling for your commute, or among busy areas such as dual carriageways or paved areas with pedestrians, then it is important to be aware of how to cycle safely and responsibly.
Are Bicycle Bells Rude?
Bicycle bells are a tool for safety, and therefore, when used appropriately, will do nothing more than warn individuals of your approach. The majority of bicycle bells are only loud enough to reliably alert people in your immediate vicinity, such as other cyclists and pedestrians.
It is also worth noting that bicycle bells are customisable, with some being much louder than your standard bicycle bell. It is arguable that some of these act as more of a distraction, with air horns being almost as loud as car horns. These would likely be considered rude and almost dangerous rather than a tool for keeping yourselves and others safe.
If you are looking for an appropriate bicycle bell that suits your personal preferences while remaining safe during your commute or your off-road journey, we recommend our article on the best – and loudest – bicycle bells here.
When Should I Use My Bike Bell?
When cycling somewhere in which there are blind spots, a gentle ring of your bell helps fellow cyclists be aware of your presence. Whenever you are behind a pedestrian, or run the risk of one stepping in front of you on the road, your bell helps to make them aware that you are about to pass.
The alternative to bicycle bells would be to shout, but this arguably runs the risk of coming across more rude than an appropriate bicycle bell ever would. However, when it comes to riding your bicycle in an area where having a bell is not a legal requirement, the choice of how you communicate with who you share the road with is entirely yours.
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