Editorial: Say Yes To The Bells

Editorial: Say Yes To The Bells

The sound of bells.

They are usually associated with the holidays — snow-covered roads navigated by horse-drawn carriages adorned by gold and silver bells. No Dickensian scene would be complete without them.

However, Cheshire appears likely to make bells a more year-round sound in the community, especially common on the Farmington Canal Linear Trail.

Earlier this month, the Public Safety Commission released the results of its public safety survey, conducted at the end of last year. The survey didn’t garner a lot of responses — only about 220 people decided to take part — but the information gleaned from the data likely provides a glimpse into how the overall community is feeling about particular issues. And of most interest was perhaps feelings associated with the Linear Trail.

As was pointed out by Town Council Chair Tim Slocum, the trail is arguably the most popular public space in Cheshire, as walkers and bikers use it for everything from exercise to nature walks. That’s why it was good news for the town that, of those who responded to the survey, the overwhelming majority reported feeling safe and secure while on the trail.

However, as was explained to the Council, of the 12 or so percent of people who don’t use the trail, concern over interactions between walkers and bikers was the main issue. The perception that bicyclists using the trail may not be as diligent in respecting a certain code of conduct as they could be is very real.

That’s why members of the Public Safety Commission suggested the widespread use of bike bells. It’s an idea that should be endorsed by all. For minimal cost and inconvenience, the bells can provide maximum safety benefits.

The majority of people who use the trail, whether employing their shoes or wheels for transportation, are courteous and cognizant of their fellow “travelers.” But there are some who, by refusing to follow basic etiquette, can create, at best, an uncomfortable environment or, at worst, a dangerous situation.

All parties using the trail have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings. Walkers who are unaware of those around them can trigger just as bad of a collision as someone on a bicycle. But the nature of the activities puts the onus on bikers to make sure their presence is announced in as obvious a way as possible. With few exceptions, a bicyclist will be traveling at speeds far exceeding even the most brisk walkers.

Bells help to mitigate any issues. They’ll be heard from farther away than someone announcing “On the left,” and provide walkers ample warning of oncoming “traffic.” The bells also shouldn’t be so noisy as to create an unpleasant environment for those hoping to enjoy a few minutes or even hours appreciating nature.

Knowing that the town is taking such action may make the trail more enticing for those concerned about their safety. Right now, the thought of having to keep one’s head on a swivel may discourage some from using Cheshire’s most easily accessible public space. Just knowing that most, if not all bikes using the trail will have bells to announce their proximity is likely to put a lot of people’s minds at ease.

Again, the results of the survey show what’s already quite obvious: The vast majority of Cheshire residents are not dissuaded from using the trail by the occasional speedy bicyclist. Venture out to the trail on a nice, sunny day throughout the year, even in the winter, and you’ll find a number of people walking to and fro. The community isn’t desperate to make its trail more popular.

Yet, there are probably a number of people who would use the trail more if they felt just a bit more comfortable, and the bells are a way to help make them feel so. How the town gets bells to bikers has yet to be determined, but it seems like an easy fix to a problem.


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