Do You Have to Have a Bell on a Bike?

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A bell is one of the most essential accessories to add to your bike. But not every cyclist has it fixed on his or her handlebars anyway. In fact, with many riders seemingly getting by just fine, it’s time to wonder if the bells are even necessary in the first place. 

Are there legal laws requiring that you must have a bell on a bike? Or is it up to you to decide if you should have one fixed on your bike’s handlebars

Plus, what role do the best bike bells play? 

Here’s the thing: 

The number of bike riders on American roads has increased in the last ten years, and there’s no doubt that this number will keep going up in the future. But as more riders join the sports, the number of bike-related accidents is also going up. And one of the reasons for the tragedies is the failure to equip a bike with a bell. 

Are There State Laws on Bike Bells?

From what we know so far, there aren’t clear laws about bike bells. Remember when we asked if you can get a ticket for riding without a helmet

It turns out that bike bell laws are a lot more similar. They’re unclear and difficult to understand. As of this writing, there are no federal laws about bicycle bells. Every state has its own rules and some municipalities have ordinances that require you to fit a bell on your bike. 

States like Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey, and New York have established laws, which suggest that you can’t ride your bike without a bell. According to this article, cyclists must not ride their bikes without signaling devices, as this is essential in keeping pedestrians and other road users safe. 

Some states have road codes that require you to give an audible warning to pedestrians. In such a case, something like shouting that you’re approaching would do, although it would be ideal to use a bell to make signaling easier.

Things are different if you’re a cyclist from a state like Ohio. Ohio doesn’t have bike bell rules, which is to say you can ride your bike without one. Also, this state doesn’t allow you to use sirens or whistles. So if you must use a signaling device, a bell would be ideal. 

Washington DC is a perfect example of just how bike bells might have become irrelevant in some states in the US over the years. DC had a mandatory bike bells rule for about 125 years, but this stopped being effective in 2013. Since them, riding a bike without a bell has never earned anyone a ticket in this state. 

In our view, the bike bell law is rarely enforced, which is why it’s easy to see people cycling without bells, as much as the law require them to. 

But Safety is as important as Cycling

Your state may or may not have bike bell laws. But that doesn’t mean bells aren’t important. 

Sure, there are signaling means you can use, like shouting at people or using a horn. But you don’t want to yell at human beings who already know the role a bike bell plays. After all, the best way to keep pedestrians safe is to use a bike bell. Remember, your safety does matter, too. And a tool as simple as a bike bell can make a big difference. 

Imagine if you and other road users went home in broken limbs, fractured bones, or hurt skin, simply because your bike doesn’t have a bike bell. It simply isn’t fair. 

A bike bell might be a simple gadget that hasn’t reached a height where it’s mandatory for every cyclist. But if you seriously care about other people, and you should, you should never ride your bike without this accessory. You may not use it every day, but it might save you and other people when your bike brakes fail to work. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Which is the best bike bell to consider?

There’s no right or wrong bell for sure. What we’re looking for is something that can sound loud enough from a distance, alerting other road users that you’re approaching and that they should allow you to pass. 

Plus, bike bell reviews show that these devices are quite cheap, so you can easily get one even if you’re on a very tight budget. Models like Sportout and Firmstrong Classic are some of the options that we’ve put to the test at Bikes Haven. Some of our testers even went as far as to try BONMIXC and Mirrycle Incredibell, which they found to be quite effective at alerting other road users. 

How often should I ring the bell on my bike?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. We can only say it depends on how loud your bell is and how further from you a pedestrian stands. In our take, ringing the bell twice is a safe bet, but doing it four times from a distance would be a lot better. If you’re cycling in a busy and noisy street, or riding inside of traffic, you may have to ring the bell continuously to keep you and others safe. 

Should I ring my bell all the time?

No, you don’t have to ring your bell all the time; otherwise you’ll look a total novice. For example, you don’t want to ring the bell when your bike is stationary. That wouldn’t make any sense. Also, don’t ring the bell when you’re alone on the road. 

You want to ring your bell only when passing other passengers. Plus, it’s good to do so when taking a turn or passing through a junction as it’s hard to know what or who’s on a path you can’t clearly see. You can ring the bell if you want to overtake another, but you don’t have to do this if the road is wide to allow you to move past them without ringing the bell. 

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