May 24, 2010

The Humble Bicycle Bell, it may save you a fortune

Let us not forget the humble bicycle bell.  Considered lame by myself and my peers when growing up, one of the first items to be removed from any new bicycle along with the reflectors, the bicycle bell's true value has long been overlooked.

I'm here today to tell you that a bicycle bell from the 100 yen shop could end up saving you thousands, and here is how:

Recently a reader, lets call him 'bell-less', contacted me for some advice after being involved in a bicycling accident.  Bell-less was cycling down a typical narrow Tokyo shopping street where he caught up with an obasan cycling in the same direction, but meandering all over the road as obasan are known to do.

To cut a long story short, bell-less found an opening on obasan's left as she swerved to the right.  As he took advantage of the gap obasan veered left, they made contact, she went down breaking her arm in the process.

Be it law or lazy police work, in Japan the largest party is almost certainly held to blame in accidents where fault can not be easily attributed to either party.  In this case where the vehicles were of equal size and fault could not clearly be attributed to either party it seems the generally accepted rule is that the uninjured party shall shoulder the burden of the injured parties medical expenses.

At the end of the day obasan would not negotiate and demanded bell-less pay all of her medical costs.  Police encouraged bell-less to simply pay up without a fuss.  Lawyers encouraged bell-less to drag out the whole process while they lined their pockets with gold.

Given the options bell-less paid up.

A simple "Sumimasen" , or "On your left", from behind and the whole situation may have been avoided.  But to really get a Japanese person's attention nothing works better than the crisp clear "ding" of a bicycle bell.  Its like Moses parting the Red Sea, to the point where I've often felt like carrying a bicycle bell as a pedestrian.

After hearing this story play out I visited my local 100 Yen shop and purchased a bicycle bell.  Its a tiny metallic blue bell that matches my frame incredibly well.  Now its fitted and I can send pedestrians scurrying away with only the power of my thumb, I can not understand why I never had one in the past.

Still think bells are lame?  Check this article from X2 Tokyo and the Tokyo Bell website and you may change your mind.

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