TRAVERSE CITY — A Traverse City woman wants bicyclists to add one simple piece of equipment to their gear: a bell.
Barbara Winckler said she advocates for the use of bicycle bells as new riders and electric bikes proliferate on public trails. She’s called bike shops to recommend bells be stocked and customers be encouraged to use them, she said.
“A bell doesn’t weigh anything,” she said.
Winckler’s effort comes after a tragic accident this summer in the suburban Detroit area, when a Rochester Hills man was struck by a cyclist and later died from his head wounds. Witnesses reported the man was startled just before the collision, and perhaps did not hear approaching cyclists.
Winckler said giving notice to others on public trails that a bicycle is approaching is not merely a courtesy, but also a safety practice. The use of bells also is supported by local bicycle enthusiasts and organizations.
“The more bells, the better,” said Ty Schmidt, executive director of nonprofit organization Norte, which focuses on youth and cycling activities.
Norte teaches upward of 1,500 youngsters each year about bicycle safety and trail courtesy. Those lessons are inextricably linked, Schmidt said.
“A little ‘ding-ding’ to me is a bit kinder and gentler than just shouting ‘on your left,’” he said.
Brian Beauchamp with TART Trails said he agrees that the sounds from bicycle bells are far more well-received and often more effective than shouts.
“A bell on every bike really is a great way to demonstrate riding etiquette,” he said. “We really need to push the message to share the trail, let your presence be known and a bike bell is the best way to do that.”
Nathan St. Onge, a bicycle mechanic at the recently relocated City Bike Shop, said he has a bell on nearly every bike he rides — even a racing bike. The shop now on Eighth Street sells a “pretty good number” of bells, he said.
Tim Brick, owner of Brick Wheels bike shop on Eighth Street, said he also advocates for the use of bells and stocks dozens of types at his store near the TART Trail. Trail use is up and as local routes get busier, etiquette and safety factors become all the more important, he said.
“We sell a ton of bells. They definitely need to be used,” Brick said. “Everybody uses the trail.”
Walkers are often startled by cyclists without advanced warning of their approach, he said.
St. Onge agreed.
“A bell always signifies there’s somebody on a bike coming through,” he said.
Schmidt said Norte currently has a stock of bells for those who need one, while TART Trails will launch an education campaign about bicycle bells in the spring.
Winckler said she’s volunteered to help with the TART Trails bicycle bells campaign next year. She’s on a mission and this is it, she said.
“On the Leelanau Trail, we ring our bells way far away and people wave and smile and it’s wonderful,” Winckler said.
She said the ultimate dream would be if every bicycle ever sold came with a bell automatically installed.