Wednesday, 26 July 2017

In which I sing while I cycle

After a short time cycling in a pedestrian-rich environment, you learn about Schrödinger's bike bell anger. Some people get angry when they hear a bike bell, and want you to Use your words. Some people get angry when they hear a raised voice, and want you to Use your bell, that's what it's for. And you won't know which one it is until you've got it wrong.

What we do know in advance is that people don't like being startled, and that bikes are fast-moving and quiet. Despite increases in London, we're not at Netherlands numbers yet, and people don't really expect them. Most of us use our ears to check if it's safe to cross a road, and only look once we've already stepped out - if then. This is understandable on roads that see only a few bikes a day.

(I'm baffled at people doing it on the Blackfriars cycle track, though. You just saw a dozen or more bikes go through on the last phase. What did you think was going to happen when the pedestrian lights went red this time? Penguins?)

Whether you ding or shout, doing it too close to people can startle them almost as much as the sudden appearance of a bike. Doing it further away means they ignore it as background noise in a busy urban environment.

My solution: keep making noise from several metres away until after you've passed them. Here are some suggestions:
  • Talk loudly to your companion
  • Talk loudly on the phone
  • Talk loudly to yourself (pretending to be on the phone)
  • Have a noisy, rattly bike. (This probably needs fixing)
  • Have a noisy, rattly road. Put metal keys in your metal basket for full effect as you bounce over potholes.
  • Play music
  • Sing
As you can guess from the title of this blog post, I generally opt for singing. People don't experience singing as a threat. It's easy to judge which direction you're coming from, how close you are, and which side you're going to pass on. Also you can provide your own theme music.

The other option is to keep ringing your bell or shouting out Excuse Me Please, but to smile broadly as you go. That small social cue relaxes people, and they usually smile back. 

But I think I'll stick with my excuse for why I'm singing in public.

1 comment:

  1. I'll check if my new smartphone can play this loud enough on the street