I go to work every day on my bike. In my town there are only few bike roads but luckily one is about half of my way to job, but a lot of pedestrians believe they are bikes and occupy the bike path. At this point there are several scenarios. Sometimes they hear/see me and move away, this is not ok because they don't have the right to be there in first place, but it looks like they understand that.

But there are other cases when people ignore me or even try to get run over.

Those scenarios are really scary for me. I usually just avoid them which is actually make me the offender because I have to invade the sidewalk.

Or like this morning: a woman was on my side of the road and was completely ignoring my bell, I could not pass her on her left side as there were another bike coming, and just when I was passing her for some reason she thought that it will be the perfect moment to move away from the bike path. Lucky for her she saw me and just end up with a scare.

Should I lecture people about how ignoring roads can be unhealthy? Should I pass them at full speed leaving a nice scare?

A bike + driver hitting someone it is a few broken bones at best. How should I treat a pedestrian completely ignoring bike path, bikes and bikers, or even trying to cross my path?

One more thing, bike paths are not optional if there is one; if you are on a bike you must use the bike path.

Edit: I live in Spain. Here each town hall writes their own rules for bikes use in their territory. In mine, pedestrians can´t remain on a bike path. Bike riders also are enforced to ride on a bike path if there is one.

  • 8
    Bells are useless. Get a horn or shout (very loudly) "On your left!". Dec 10, 2015 at 13:16
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    it these case on side walk. They are not pained they have different colour and made of different material and have a bike painted and signs there is no way some body mistaking them.
    – kifli
    Dec 10, 2015 at 15:39
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    Get a decent bell. If the usual little ping-ping bells don't work get a better one. Or two. I have a big old bell like this that if used carefully can make a little tinkling noise, but can also make a much louder rining. And it sounds like a bicycle bell. For a while I also had a squeezy-bulb horn that sounded like a clown, for people who ignored the bell.
    – Móż
    Dec 10, 2015 at 20:29
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    The way I deal with pedestrians on the bike path is to call out (or use my bell) to alert than that I'm behind them, then if another bike or pedestrian is coming the other way, I slow down before reaching the pedestrian so by the time I reach her, the path is clear for passing. I pass slowly and give them a wide berth just in case they change direction. Though in my country, nearly all bike paths are open to pedestrians, so bikes need to accommodate them.
    – Johnny
    Dec 10, 2015 at 22:57
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    I've swapped the 'security' tag to 'safety' as security is more about theft etc. If I've got your intent wrong do change it back.
    – Chris H
    Dec 11, 2015 at 8:45

9 Answers 9


Whatever you do, don't be a jerk. Noone likes a cyclist who reinforces the bad stereotypes.

Do Share The Road Even though you're in the right, there's no need to be offensive.

Personally I find bells lazy, most cyclists have a good loud voice and a "Hi there, just gonna pass on your left" is far nicer than "ringring"

Absolutely never try to scare someone with speed or proximity. Think how bad you'd look if it went wrong and you couldn't stop or swerve in time. You would be at fault even though they were in the wrong.

Conversation and lecturing has no effect, and is more likely to make people defensive and negative toward you and all cyclists. A rhetorical question like "Where's your bike?" is about as much as you could say safely, and even that much might get you into a physical altercation.

My solution is to anticipate the up-coming blockage, look behind over the shoulder at driver of oncoming traffic, speed up and take the road lane. Give the obstruction a wide berth. Making eye contact with the following driver helps them anticipate your action. The driver can see exactly what you can see and won't get mad because you telegraphed the intent by looking.

Of course this assumes you can ride fast enough to "merge" with the traffic for a moment.

  • 11
    Noone likes a cyclist who reinforces the bad stereotypes this, times 1000. It's sad but it's the reality: in some countries there is still a lot of hate towards cyclists, mostly fed by anecdotes bt of course people usually only remember the bad encounters. The only way to end this is a change of mentality which in turn can only ever work if all sides behave nicely.
    – stijn
    Dec 11, 2015 at 8:33
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    @Vorac Something like that happened to me. There were a woman with her kid I saw them and went slower. They were walking in the middle of the path so no way to me to pass them. So I was going slower and slower each time women CLEARLY spotted me but chose to do like I wasnt there. So I stopped right in front of them and he pushed her kid in the bike direction! luckily it was a small kid and passed under the bike handler. I looked at her like wtf are you doing ? and she just walked away.
    – kifli
    Dec 11, 2015 at 12:53
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    I disagree that using a bell is lazy. Speaking loudly startles some people, especially if the path has a low volume of traffic (people out for a stroll zone out). A loud voice can be jarring. Older people especially seem to thank me when I use a good bell, instead of my voice.
    – Rider_X
    Dec 11, 2015 at 20:26
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    @Rider_X The bell is actually perhaps one of the worst ways to inform someone of your presence. A bell ringing will generate a very narrow band of frequencies (plus harmonics), which gives very little phase information for the brain to process (highly coherent signal). The result is that it is very hard to determine the range/distance/speed of a ringing bell. This is why modern emergency response vehicles now mix white noise into their sirens.
    – Aron
    Dec 14, 2015 at 5:52
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    @Aron - I don't think the purpose of the bell is to communicate your speed and range. Rather, I think its best use is a gentle way to get someone's of attention so that they make visual contact in order to determine speed and range information. The closing speeds between pedestrians and cyclists are generally less than between emergency vehicles and cars, so I don't think range and speed information needs to be communicated auditorily.
    – Rider_X
    Dec 15, 2015 at 3:38

In my country, pedestrians are also forbidden to walk on bike paths, however, cyclists are not obligated to use them, they just have to give preference to riding on bike paths. So I usually avoid riding on bike paths that I know pedestrians use. There are some cases where paths are shared among pedestrians and cyclists, but those are the exception and are properly signposted.

Now, how to deal with such pedestrians. Perhaps this is more opinion based.

I would say the best approach is not to scare them, do not pass too close and at high speeds. Try to slow down a bit and shout Excuse me! followed by Thank you!. This kind of works and it is more likely that people will end up with a smile in their faces rather than almost faint from scare.

Also, in my experience, bells are not useless, as opposed to Daniel's comment. Of course, if your bell sound is too low, then you will need to replace it. I use it on cycle paths and most times people listen and move away. Furthermore, I try to predict if someone is walking towards the cycle path and the bell is useful to call their attention, people tend to wait and cross the path after you.

Bottom line, I think it is better to educate by being nice rather than hostile.

  • The problem with bells is that some people interpret them as aggression. May 5, 2021 at 21:01
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    @VladimirF maybe that would be a nice question for another SE site: why do people interpret warning signs as an agression? Is the problem with bells or with people?
    – iled
    May 7, 2021 at 15:22

I don't think my approach has been mentioned, yet.

I use the bell and say "thank you". If people notice me in time and move out of my way, I pass them without using the bell and still say "thank you".

Reason: Just using the bell might seem unfriendly, so I try to mitigate that with the thanks. On the other hand I want to encourage people who pay attention to their surroundings and move out of my way, so I say thank you to them, too. I think people appreciate it. Every now and then I get a "you're welcome" back.

Location: Germany, in a town where many people commute by bike.

  • 2
    In some cases I replace the Thank You with 'Good Morning' which is mostly replied to in a nice tone, so seems welcome.
    – Willeke
    May 9, 2021 at 13:45

You don't say where your jurisdiction is, but I think you need to check your local laws.

Many designated cycle paths do not prohibit pedestrians from using them, and in many cases where pedestrians are allowed on the path, they will have priority.

You really need to check this for yourself, but don't be surprised if you find that pedestrians will have right of way over cyclists, and if there were a collision then the cyclist might be presumed to be at fault.

  • I know the laws. Yes pedestrians can´t use them. They don't have "the right" they cant be there it like a road only for bikes. Bike paths are strictly prohibited for pedestrians as bikes are enforced to only use them.
    – kifli
    Dec 10, 2015 at 12:06
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    So if pedestrians are prohibited from using these paths, it might be worth putting this question to whoever is supposed to enforce that. Your local police? your local council perhaps?
    – PeteH
    Dec 10, 2015 at 12:12
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    yes the local police. there are fines for people who don follow the rules. But usually they will just get call out.
    – kifli
    Dec 10, 2015 at 12:16
  • okay, so what do the police say you should do? My own experience of my local police is that they can be quite....uninterested....in things like this, but it is surely worth asking them anyway.
    – PeteH
    Dec 10, 2015 at 13:29
  • I didn't asked I just read the law for my self it is public. What police do ? well I was once told that I can´t ride my bike it a certain place. That is how I read the bike´s laws and actually policemen were correct.
    – kifli
    Dec 10, 2015 at 15:05

Well, your bell obviously is not loud enough. I would not encourage you to use some illegal bell/horn/whatever, but rather learn to resort to your voice. It's much, much more effective than any (il-)legal bike bell. Personally, I use a loud "ring ring" with a singing voice, and it works like a charm on most people.

That said, when there are people too close to your bike path, you absolutely must get their attention before you pass. As you experienced yourself, pedestrians are not predictable, unless you've seen them a) notice you and b) react in a safe way. If you don't get both, you must still have the time to come to a stop instead of colliding with them. Otherwise, you are bound to have a costly accident sometime.

The requirement to see the pedestrians notice you and react to you, requires you to ring from quite a distance. I always use the rule of thumb: 1 second for them to hear you, 1 second for them to react, and 1 second for you to react to a botched reaction(*). That's a total of 3s. Assuming that you are going at 25.2 km/h = 7 m/s, you must make yourself heard over a distance of no less than 21m. Which brings us back to why no legal bell is ever sufficient for signaling to pedestrians. Your voice, however, is perfectly legal to use, and it can carry to a pedestrian 21 meters away (unless they have earphones etc.). So, use your voice.

*) Well, 1 second worth of unhindered cycling, that is. When you brake, you will actually have 2 seconds to come to a stop because you will become slower and slower while you use up the distance you would otherwise have covered within a single second.


Here are a few choices:

  1. Wait patiently while you ride very slowly and safely past them until you either get their attention and they move over or until you are safely past.

  2. Get a louder audible signal, like an AirZound. Of course, this doesn't guarantee anything.

  3. Signal with your bell and pass them, accepting your fate.

  4. Start a public campaign to get the rules enforced.

In my case I pick number 1. On some days I use number 3.

  • 1
    I have an airzound - its great for communicating with drivers in their padded and soundproofed living-rooms-on-wheels. I'd never ever use it on pedestrians, its too loud and could give someone a coronary.
    – Criggie
    May 4, 2021 at 21:22
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    @criggie "communicating" lulz
    – jqning
    May 21, 2021 at 17:46

How to proceed?

Proceed slowly, or come to a complete stop.

I cycle round Paris for the exercise and most of the time I'm at top speed or cruising. And I'll ride for hours at a time, So what does it matter if I stop for a few seconds sometimes?

I almost never leave the bike path onto the pedestrian side-walk to overtake, unless the side-walk is empty. It's my job to stay on the cycle path and to slow or stop if there's an obstruction -- and their job to get out the way, and I'm willing to wait until they do.

If I see someone in the way then I ring the bell well in advance of reaching them, and they usually hear and step out of the way in time -- but if they don't then I slow down and I'm willing to stop.

My bike is made for "urban" riding by the way, with hydraulic disk brakes which are a pleasure to use.


You need to ring the bell from far enough.

I had lots of hopeless experience with the bell, and at some point was convinced it just does not work. But no, you simply need to ring from far enough and then it works. Some "cool" designs of the bell may also be not loud enough when used from the right distance.

If it is too late to use the bell, say "Good morning" with the loud voice, this will work, but you need to nearly stop anyway because pedestrians may move in an unexpected direction. For some strange reason I have never figured out, using bell in this situation may be perceived by pedestrians as impolite.

Never pass a pedestrian and especially a free-running dog at full speed. You need to slow down, nothing to do. For some reason dogs may rush right under your wheels, even when seeing you perfectly. Also some pedestrians believe they are actually not even bicycles but aircraft, and keep the center of the runway. Beware they may drift in unexpected direction when they finally hear you approaching from behind.


Use should use anything EXCEPT the bell.

Here is another case where legislation has not caught up with scientific reasoning. In many countries the bell is a mandatory piece of equipment, which leads many to believe in its efficacy in increasing safety.

The bell actually lowers safety.

A typical bell rings with a very pure tone. The result of which is that a bell typically has a long coherence length. This means that sound changes very little with respect to time and space.

When the tone does not change very much with respect to space, both ears will hear exactly the same thing. This makes it very difficult for the brain to pin point the direction and range of a bell.

This should be evident with any cyclist who has seen pedestrians who actually DO hear the bell, but fail to locate the source in the time it takes to close in to the pedestrian.

Another example of the phenomenon is when you try to locate the source of electronic buzzing. No matter how annoyingly loud it is, it is extremely hard to locate. This is because electronics buzz at a very precise 50/60Hz of your local electricity company.

In UK, emergency services now employ brief spurts of white noise as part of their sirens, specifically because white noise has a very short coherence length.

The result is that many people do not hear the bell because their subconscious filters it out because it does not immediately recognize that the information is directed at them.

Use anything with a shorter coherence length than a bell

My advise is to employ any sort of sound generation equipment that has a shorter coherence length than a bell. Typically anything mechanical will have short coherence length (changes sound often).

Systems that work effectively

  • Human Voice (Shouting)
  • Music broadcast on large speakers
  • White Noise
  • Extremely squeaky drive train
  • Internal Combustion Engine
  • 5
    more references and less condescension would make this a better answer.
    – Móż
    Dec 14, 2015 at 6:37
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    "tongue in cheek" doesn't work for obscure cultural references. "I don't have evidence, but you're all doing it wrong" likewise. Also, you may have heard Rutherford's quote about the barmaid.
    – Móż
    Dec 14, 2015 at 7:33
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    I'd rather not go back and forth arguing, so for examples here's an answer where I disagreed with the question and included arguments (rather than just assertions) and references. If you want real "beaten around the head with facts", try how can I interpret honking because I do that too.
    – Móż
    Dec 14, 2015 at 10:11
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    @Mσᶎ youtube.com/watch?v=fa28lIGuxq8
    – Aron
    Feb 29, 2016 at 17:47
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    @Aron, I doubt your assertion that white noise is more easily located is contested, but rather your conclusion that a bell reduces safety. A concept of using audible signals to chase pedestrians out of ones way is inherently flawed. Unless one is an emergency service or a railway, as it were. Oh, and yes I have a voice in addition to my bell, I use it to ask people to kindly step out of my way. Wide spectrum, low coherence length, makes it easy to find my friendly smile.
    – gschenk
    Feb 20, 2017 at 0:29

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