NJ Mandates Use of Bells/Horns on All Bicycles

NJ law Regulation 39:4-11 states “A bicycle must be equipped with a bell or other device that can be heard at least 100 feet away, but not a siren or whistle”. I am not sure this regulation makes sense for the type of rides we do as a club. I only realized this regulation was on the books several years ago when a police e officer stopped one of our club members for an “unsafe” maneuver which was going into the main traffic lane to go around parked cars. The policeman decided not to charge the cyclists for an unsafe maneuver but did cite him for not having a bell. This resulted in a $50 fine. I immediately installed bells on all my bikes so that I was in compliance with the regulation. There are many low cost bells available.

I like the Schwinn bell that has a thumb screw installation which does not require any tools and can easily be switched from one bike to another. They cost $4.99 at Walmart and many other stores and bike shops.   I have found that the European style “ping” bells are not effective as the average person does not associate that sound with a bicycle.

Most bells and horns cannot be heard by motor vehicles hence they are only effective for warning pedestrians and other bicyclists. I do not recommend the use of these devices on club rides as verbal communication is preferred and is much more effective. If someone rings their bell on a club ride what does it really mean? It is open to interpretation. BTCNJ does not currently have any club guidelines governing the use of these devices.

There are some options for horns that do have enough decibels to be heard by a motor vehicle. One is a starters air horn which is exceptionally loud. They are available in a small compact size that can be mounted on a bike handlebar with a velcro strap. It makes a sound that would not be associated with a bicycle but certainly would get the attention of a motor vehicle operator.  It should not be used to warn pedestrians or other bicyclists.  I used one when I resided in Colorado Springs to scare off mountain lions (they can be aggressive), coyotes and farm dogs (ran in packs and were vicious). It was very affective for this use.

Another horn I witnessed on a club ride is the Hornit dB 140 which has five different sounds all loud enough to be heard by a car. This may be good for a ride leader to get a motor  vehicles attention but again I recommend refraining from using it on a bike path or to warn pedestrians or other bicyclists.

Through our efforts on the Advocacy side of things we plan to contact State Legislature representatives to work with them to either update the regulation or perhaps eliminating it for adult bikers.

I welcome your feedback and let me know what you think about this regulation. 

John Daugherty

Advocacy and Safety Chair