An Ode to the Cyclist’s Bell…

Digital Editor Alex Oxford brings news of a great invention. It’s round, shiny, and the only thing separating us from the beastly Oxonians

Alex Oxford

All is well and good in the world until that breeze brushes against you...

I would like to inform you of a little thing I’ve found irksome these past few years in fair Cambridge. My entirely factual, anecdotal evidence has taught me all I need to know on the matter and I am not prepared to change my mind. Please sit back, and perhaps you can take something from this little passive-aggressive tale. Picture the scene…

“Can you solve this riddle, dear reader?”

It is a sun-filled day. There is a sense of tranquility and contentment washing over you as you walk from King’s Parade to Sidney Street. All is well and good in the world until that breeze brushes against you, that rubber-clad hunk of metal is jousted into your arm and you narrowly escape being on the front end of a Cambridge bicycle. While you’re nursing your dead arm until it regains feeling (and a startling amount of pain), the world becomes tinted with a simmering resentment. Occasionally the collision is accompanied by an eye-roll as they pedal into the distance at breakneck speed, apparently unaware that this situation could have been avoided. Can you solve this riddle, dear reader? This simple mechanism that could solve all cyclist-tourist feuds across the land?

It is simple really. This pain and irritation could have been avoided by the simple use of a bell. You know, those little circular things on the handlebars that make the ‘ding’ sound? Believe it or not, they are supposed to tell the people who can’t see you that you are there. It’s a blinding invention!

And hey, I get it! I’m a cyclist too! I don’t claim that walkers and tourists alike aren’t occasionally oblivious to their surroundings, however the seething judgement when they get in your way is nowhere near as satisfying if you don’t have the moral high ground. Yet another reason to invest in that little dinging thing you put on the handlebars! When you’re cycling past St. John’s and those pesky pedestrians seem to be confusing the pavement with the road, there’s nothing as satisfying as forcing them to move — to respect your right of way — but imagine if there was a way to tell the unaware pedestrian apart from the just plain rude one…

“Rarely has something felt as satisfying as rolling my eyes that day in the knowledge that I had the high ground”

I was in this very situation myself. I rang my bell from a very respectful 10-15 metres away, to no avail. At the 5 metre mark, I rang it again to the exact same response. Finally, when I was crawling behind them with no way to overtake, I tried with a final ring of the bell before lashing out in my most Northern tones with a resounding ‘OI!’. That got their attention, and rarely has something felt as satisfying as rolling my eyes that day in the knowledge that I had the high ground... I may care about this more than one would deem normal.


Mountain View

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But if the sadistic knowledge of being right will not tempt you, reader, then perhaps my final tale might convince you…The first time I was posed with this ‘bell-less menace’ that threatens our cycling streets was on a school trip. As I walked along the cobbles, admiring the architecture and gawking like all other 17 year olds on an open day, a teacher’s hand latched on to my jacket and flung me against the stone wall, all for a racing bike speeding silently past us. Over the course of the day this happened not once or twice, but a solid six times!

This tale would not seem out of the ordinary unless I were to inform you that this exchange took place on a school trip to Oxford, leaving me with the resounding impression that the bell is the pinnacle of cyclist technology that simply hasn’t made it to the Other Place yet. This impression was initially confirmed, as it was bells a-plenty on my journeys to Sidgwick Site, but I’m beginning to fear this is no longer the case.

Don’t be like Oxford, dear reader. Get a god-damn bell.