Injured in pathway collision, Ottawa man becomes bike bell evangelist

Murray Angus is a hard-to-miss sight these days on the paths along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway near Britannia Beach — and it's not just because he's sporting a cast on his right arm.

'I think it's a thoughtfulness thing,' says Murray Angus

Murray Angus recently broke his wrist in a collision with a cyclist on one of these paths along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway. Now, when he goes out for his daily walks, he wears a T-shirt emblazoned with a three-word plea: 'Use your bell.' (Joyce Hardman)

Murray Angus is a hard-to-miss sight these days on the paths skirting the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway near Britannia Beach — and it's not just because of the cast on his left arm.

Angus broke his wrist nearly two weeks ago after being struck by a cyclist. Now, when he goes out for his daily strolls, he also sports a white T-shirt bearing a bold but simple message on the back: "Use your bell."

"It was a clear morning. The path wasn't crowded. Suddenly, out of the blue, a bike smashed into me from behind," Angus told CBC's Ottawa Morning on Wednesday.

"I was pretty shaken up," he said. "The woman was distraught at what she'd done. She'd admitted it was just a case of her own inattentiveness. She had her head down, didn't even see me."

After the collision, Angus said, he began noticing how infrequently cyclists would ring their bells while passing. One morning he decided to keep track — and found that only four out of 23 cyclists alerted him that they were coming up from behind.

Since donning the T-shirt, Angus says he's encountered a number of reactions — from people who support it to those who think it's "a bit over the top." But the shirt is working, he said: significantly more cyclists are ringing their bells.

Bells mandated by province

Under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, every bicycle must be equipped with an "alarm bell, gong or horn" and should be sounded "whenever it is reasonably necessary to notify pedestrians or others of its approach."

However there's debate in cycling circles over whether bells are the best way to alert pedestrians, since an unexpected ring can cause people to react unpredictably. There's also the concern that the ding of a bike bell can be taken the wrong way, like the angry blast of a car horn rather than a friendly reminder that a bicycle's approaching.

Murray Angus has been wearing this T-shirt urging cyclists to ring their bells as they pass ever since he broke his wrist in a recent collision with a cyclist. (Joyce Hardman)

"Sometimes I ring it, and sometimes it looks, you know, really safe not to bother. So you just pull out as far as you can," said cyclist Kringen Henein, who stopped Tuesday morning to compliment Angus on his T-shirt.

"You always wonder if occasionally people will be startled by the bell, or they'll be slightly annoyed by the bell," she said. "So you kind of use your judgment. But it's still a good idea."

Angus, who's also a cyclist, admits he doesn't always ring his bell either. But he vowed he'll be using it more often, once his cast comes off and he's back on his bike.

"I think it's a thoughtfulness thing ... a courtesy thing, and a safety thing," said Angus. "I think we're all better off if people are a bit more conscious about the appropriateness of using their bell, giving some warning."