Americans don’t have bells on their bicycle. The ones for sale here are aimed at kids, and hearing one on the road would indicate a child coming up. When an American approaches someone they want to pass, they holler.

The most typical cries are:
“Coming by!”
“On your left!”
and simply “Bicycle!”

It’s been a rough couple of months trying to readjust from jolly bell ringings and effortless overtaking, to disturbing (not to mention being disturbed by–) loud cries.

To myself – and I would argue; most world citizens – yelling is considered rude and to be avoided in daily life, unless a threatening situation occurs or someone stole your sandwich. So I’ve been trying to find a middle-ground, say, a compromise between European and American culture. I slow down a bit, get closer and then use the phrases, but say them in a normal voice.


Today I came up to three young ladies, pleasantly jogging on the designated bike path, filling its whole width. I’m an understanding woman, and accept they needed that space so they could chat while their lungs were nearly collapsing from the exercise.

“Coming up.”
“On your left.”

When I got truly close, they spotted me and quickly dispersed, like city pigeons do when you sneak up on them.

“Sorry! Sorry!” the closest one .
“Oh it’s all right.”
she bellowed as I went by.
“She tried.” her friend calmed her down.

You see, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to assume the yelling when I’m at perfect peace on my bicycle. I may need to import a bell from the Netherlands.


Categories: Being Dutch in the USA

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