Bells & Guns
by Roger S NelsonMy first article told of problems communicating on a Tandem, we went by some bikers on SummerTour without using the horn because I couldn't get my stoker, who operates it, to understand me. If you think about this, bike courtesy is to say "on your left" when passing other bikers. So why didn't I do that? Darned if I know. All I can say is that the horn seems a friendly way to let people know I'm behind them and coming up. If I'm riding hard (and passing lots of bikers) I'm too out of breath to say anything, and the sound the horn makes carries a lot farther (unless I'm really yelling). Also, after yelling "on your left" for too many miles one starts to develop an attitude, not to mention getting hoarse. The words may be the same, but the tone of the voice starts implying "Get out of my way ^&*#IDIOT!" which seem a little rude for a friendly touring bike ride. Slow bikers have a right to the road, too. Maybe there should be a butt sticker that says "I share the road with slow bikes." (Since bike bumpers are too skinny for a sticker, the butt seems like the most obvious place for a sticker, some more obvious than others.)
State law requires a horn or bell on the bike, but a lot of people don't have bells or horns on their bike. In fact, I don't currently have one on my single bike. But then I can always say "on your left" and often do. In fact, the State law requiring the horn or bell seems kinda dumb to me. I'd like to think our legislators were doing more important things, like raising taxes. Well, maybe not. Anyway, I've just been waiting for a cop to stop me some day and ask about my horn or bell. Picture this:
I'm riding along on a nice sunny day when an officer pulls me over.
"May I see your drivers license and insurance?" I show him my drivers license and give him a quarter.
"What's this?" he says, indicating the quarter.
"If my bike is stolen or breaks down I use the quarter to call somebody for a ride. It's my insurance."
"Oooooh kay," he says, "Do you know why I pulled you over?"
"Not exactly. I'm pretty sure I wasn't going over the speed limit. And I don't think you were around when I blew that stop sign a couple miles back."
"I noticed as I drove by that you don't have a horn or bell on your bike."
"Yes I do," I say.
"At this point I start saying, "Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding."
"That's not a bell," he says, "you're just making that sound."
"Sure it's a bell," I say, "And you know what? I've got a horn, too. 'Hoooonk.' I'm a guy. I can do these things. Just ask Tim Allen. I can grunt, too. Listen, 'Uuuummh.' That horn sounded like a goose, but I've also got a duck. 'Quack, quack, quack.' In fact I've got a siren. 'oooooeeeeeeeooooooooooeeeeeeeeeooooooooeeeeee.' And I've even got a gun." I point my finger at him and say, "BANG."
"OK, Mr. Nelson. You've made your point. But I'm going to have to cite you for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit."
It would be worth the ticket just to make the point that we don't need a State law requiring a bell on a bike. Well, unless it's a girl's bike. It's not very feminine to make all those sound effects.
The point is, I share the road with slower bikes and let them know in a friendly manner that I'm coming, one way or another.