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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Welcome back, bicycle bell
Ah...the ding of a bicycle bell as a cheery postman greets the vicar across the village green. Something from a bygone era? Not quite - it's the new initiative to improve road safety.

Ring my bell
If you get a brand new bicycle from 1 May, make sure its got a brand new bell.

Bells on new bikes were compulsory until 1983, when the requirement was scrapped by Mrs Thatcher's government. But from this weekend they will once again be mandatory.

But worried walkers fear that although the Pedal Bicycle Safety Regulations Act makes it an offence to sell a bell-less bike, there's nothing to stop the new owner removing it as soon as they wheel their new purchase out of the shop.

Karen Blanchette, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, says this is a mistake, as bells act as an effective warning to pedestrians, who might otherwise step out in front of an on-coming cyclist.

Nick Palmer, the Labour MP for Broxtowe, agrees. He has campaigned for compulsory bells for five years, after several thousand of his constituents signed a petition in favour of such a Bill.

John Prescott cycling
Contender for No bell prize
Mainly pensioners and partially-sighted people, they complained that they felt at risk from cyclists who rode on pavements or sped past just as they stepped off the pavement to cross the road.

"Local police have told me it is very difficult to stop cyclists whizzing by," Mr Palmer says. "Wherever possible, there needs to be cycle paths, but you will still get those who will ride on the pavements."

If they used bells to warn of their presence, it might just make the pavements a safer place, he says.

In 2002, 170 pedestrians collided with a cyclist - three of those died, and 40 sustained serious injuries, according to the Royal Society.

Look out, cyclist about

Roger Geffen, of the Cyclists Touring Club, the national body which represents cyclists' interests, says bells are a good idea especially for novice riders.

"We feel [the Act] is appropriate given that so many new bikes are bought by people, including children, who are new to cycling and who are therefore likely to share the space with pedestrians."

But it's not only walkers at risk. Cyclists themselves can be injured in collisions with pedestrians and other road - or pavement - users.

In parts of Canada, bell-less cyclists can be pulled over by the police and fined up to $100 - about 40. One rider familiar with the traffic-clogged roads of Toronto says she thought the law was an ass - until she took to two wheels herself.

"I found I used the bell all the time. I rang the damn thing like a maniac, and I think it saved me more than once."

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