Normally you let the bicyclist/walker/jogger ahead of you know that you are about to pass them by shouting "passing" or even by just ringing the bell on your bike. This is done as a courtesy since many people do get scared/shocked if someone just zooms by them without notice. It's also a safety issue since the person could accidentally or knowingly go to the left side of the path and you'd run into them. For example, they could see a cute duckling on the left grass and start walking over towards it forgetting about looking behind them and bam, an accident!

Ride to the right on multi-use paths and warn other cyclists, walkers, runners and path users before overtaking and passing them. Call out “passing” or ring your bike bell.
From https://bicyclecolorado.org/learn/colorado-bicycle-laws/

enter image description here

However, now a days many people (usually younger people) will be blasting music in their ears through their headphones. So I've noticed that many times these people don't hear me shouting at them that I'm passing.

Here's three options I've came up with:

  1. I could just keep going at the same fast speed and just blame them if they get hit since they are the ones that thought their music was more important than safety or listening to the sounds of nature.

  2. I could slow down to a safer speed and slowly pass them reducing the chances of an accident.

  3. I could carry some small pebbles with me and then just chuck 1 or 2 of them about 6-8 feet ahead of them to grab their attention.

I don't really prefer any of these three options, is there a better way to grab their attention when shouting doesn't work, while maintaining the same faster speed?

  • I agree. Navigation and safety issues are an issue all bicyclists face and perfectly on topic at Bicycles SE. It's a good question, but it's not really an outside-the-box question for the purpose of this site. Sorry about the confusion. Jun 17, 2015 at 14:05
  • I think my question is kinda similar to lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/6613/… , but go ahead and migrate to bicycles.SE please.
    – Dronehinge
    Jun 17, 2015 at 19:58
  • 1
    possible duplicate of Safely overtaking pedestrians
    – andy256
    Jun 18, 2015 at 1:08
  • 1
    Sometimes shouting or ringing your bell even makes them jump across the whole bicycle path. Especially when it’s a group they often can’t decide which side of the path to use. Sadly I’ve never found a good solution, people just ignore all traffic laws on bicycle paths.
    – Michael
    Jul 7, 2015 at 14:18
  • 1
    And in any case where you are not sure the person is aware of you, you must slow down. There is no reason why you must risk your life and theirs just to maintain your 15-20 mph pace. Jul 8, 2015 at 11:23

5 Answers 5


You already known the answer (2), but do not seem to care much for it. The reality is that you are the fastest user on the shared path thus you bear the most responsibility.

I would suggest

  • When approaching, slow down to an appropriate speed.
  • Make an attempt to notify (bell or calling out), even if they have head phones on.
  • If they do not respond or move, then further adjust your speed and position on the path appropriately to ensure you can safety pass.

Because you are moving faster, you have the most momentum and will therefore inflict the most damage in the event of an accident. If the other party is unaware of your presence then you bear most of the responsibility here. (A couple weeks ago I attended a multi-use path crash where one user had their face caved in due to the speed of the other user. You would be surprised the damage that can be inflicted.)

The reason I would call out or ring a bell even if they may not hear you is liability in the event of an accident.

Finally, it pains me that many complain about the way that some motorist bully cyclists on shared road ways, then go on and do the same to pedestrians or other slower users on shared pathways.

  • 1
    “If the other party is unaware of your presence then you bear most of the responsibility here.” But the other party is responsible for checking that the road or cycleway is clear when changing sides or crossing it. Cyclists should also give handsigns. Unfortunately very few people do that on cycleways and it’s really dangerous. Many pedestrians and cyclists behave like children with no knowledge of basic traffic regulations. Nobody would just jump on a highway, running after their dog. On cycleways people do it all the time.
    – Michael
    Jun 19, 2015 at 16:22
  • 1
    @Michael We live in an imperfect world. People can discover a path and decide to walk along it, without encountering any indication that it's shared. After all, the signs cannot be everywhere. As an extreme example, that person walking a dog ahead of you could be blind and deaf, and using a guide dog. A legalistic view of who is in the right or wrong doesn't help you if you hit an elderly pedestrian at 30kph, kill them, and impale yourself on something that shouldn't be there. Take care out there, of yourself and others.
    – andy256
    Jul 8, 2015 at 10:02
  • 3
    Legally speaking, in most accidents when someone is hit from behind, the fault lies with the one who rear-ended the other, usually because they have vision and the other does not Jul 9, 2015 at 23:39
  • 1
    Your last line states the dichotomy perfectly.
    – Criggie
    Sep 8, 2016 at 1:15

I know you're looking for a different answer, and I'm not trying to be preachy, either. This just touches on a subject that's been on my mind a lot lately.

There's no fool-proof way to get pedestrians to move out of your way. No matter how loud your yell/bell/horn/brake noise is, there will always be a chance that someone won't react as you predict.

Just like vehicles on the road have an obligation to maneuver safely around us cyclists, we have an obligation to do the same with pedestrians. It's not the pedestrian's job to get out of your way. If you don't want to deal with pedestrians on MUPs, ride on the road or a cycling-specific path. But if you're going to share a MUP with pedestrians, you have to slow down when passing if you can't get them to move over safely, period. The minor inconvenience you'll face is worth not injuring yourself and/or others.

Not to mention how much better the working relationship between motorists, we cyclists, and pedestrians could be if we all practice what we preach to drivers.

  • 1
    “It's not the pedestrian's job to get out of your way.” it totally is when said pedestrian(s) is/are completly blocking a dedicated or shared bicycle path. It’s also the pedestrians fault when they jump in front of your bicycle without looking. You are obliged to assume that children or obviously strangely behaving people won’t obey traffic laws, but you can’t assume that every single pedestrian will jump in front of your bicycle.
    – Michael
    Jul 7, 2015 at 14:15
  • 1
    @Michael Following my response to your comment on Rider_X's answer, every time we pass someone from behind, we take a risk. We reduce the risk by calling or ringing a bell. But if there's no response, we don't know they've heard, and passing is a risk to both people. People can also have higher responsibilities than getting out of your way, such as they could be helping an elderly person who has fallen, or a cyclist (as I came upon recently). So approach every situation with due care.
    – andy256
    Jul 8, 2015 at 10:11
  • Very good answer. There is no fool-proof way, and we probably all have annoying experiences, whether it's somebody not reacting whatever you do, or (the opposite) somebody getting really spooked even though you tried your best to be careful and considerate. It also depends a lot on the situation. If you're not sure that a pedestrian has noticed you and expects you, the only sensible reaction is indeed to slow down. Jul 8, 2015 at 11:52

Well there is only one rule - adjust your speed to the situation. Doesn't matter if it's falling rocks, a sudden animal crossing road, people, deaf/earphone people, kids, oil on road behind corner...

You don't even have to use noises to notify people - it usually surprises them and they make sudden moves. Just pass them at safe distance with safe speed (I would pass elderly with greater speed than kids, because it's not likely they will move quickly into your trajectory).

Use your prediction and treat everything the same - have a total control what's around you and what can intersect your path, no matter what it is.

  • 2
    "I would pass elderly with greater speed" - please don't. Elderly people have a different perception of speed and distances, and many are also much more worried about falling/being hit for very good reasons. Even a minor fall can lead to broken bones, hospitalisation and immobilisation, often starting a downward spiral. Passing at speed may be safe in the sense that you're not likely to hit, but it scares the hell out of many elderly people. I would slow down even more and keep a larger distance, especially when I'm not sure if they have heard me. Jul 8, 2015 at 7:11
  • You should make an effort to audibly warn those you are going to pass. You should do this early enough that they have time to grasp what's going on, however, not when you are already passing them. Jul 8, 2015 at 11:19
  • @StephanMatthiesen Please re-read the answer. There is nothing about passing elderly with speed to scare them. Use common sense.
    – Jerryno
    Jul 8, 2015 at 11:51
  • @Jerryno I agree with your main recommendation to adjust the speed, but I referred specifically to a quote from your text. I did not mean to imply that you intend to scare anybody, but in my experience many younger people are not aware that many older people perceive speed and distances differently, so I would recommend that one should be particularly careful and slow around them. Nothing more. Jul 8, 2015 at 12:02

Zen answer - consider that the relationship of "you-cyclist to the walker" is the same relationship as a "moving car to you-cyclist"

What would you want a car driver to do? Throw stones? Toot horn very loud? Zoom past at speed and blame cyclist for anything that happens?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

The answer is ride to the conditions and be considerate of other roadway users (yes that incliudes pedestrians too)


Buy a very loud alarm and, if the person ahead is wearing headphones, blip it as you approach.

Note : such items can be purchased at Maplin stores in the UK http://www.maplin.co.uk/

EDIT in response to Andy's feedback.

The original question is essentially flawed. It seems to ask "How can I attract someone's attention when they can't see, feel or hear me?". The answer is "You can't".

Given that, by definition, they are facing away from you and physical touch is excluded, the only recourse is to make a sufficiently loud sound so that they can hear it over the distraction.


I deleted my facetious answer about using a long stick.

  • Welcome to Bicycles @chasly. I see someone clicked the downvote button; the mouseover says This answer is not useful. The upvote button says This answer is useful, and that's how an answer needs to be to get upvotes. Sometimes a humorous answer works, but it's usually as comments that humor is most appreciated. Comments are ephemeral, and not the main content of the site.
    – andy256
    Jul 8, 2015 at 3:18
  • The problem with these bike alarms is that they often use the same high-pitch sound as burglar/personal alarm. There is the psychological effect that most people will not recognise it as a warning of approaching bicycles, but assume it's again one of those numerous alarms that just go off without any reason and can be ignored. Besides that, many elderly people can't hear the high pitch at all. Jul 19, 2015 at 9:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.