Years ago, I was in Vancouver with my bicycle and I saw the sign posted here. It was a revelation. A major city could actually think well about modes of transportation other than the automobile! I didn’t think it was possible.
On that same trip, I saw another sign, which read:
Learn To Speak Bicycle
The sign provided some basic information, and it turns out that speaking bicycle requires a refreshing and accessible small vocabulary.
The Speaking Bicycle Dictionary
ring-ring: A sound made by a bicycle bell; a signal made by a cyclist, out of courtesy, to alert a pedestrian that a bicycle is coming their way
honk-honk: A sound made by a bicycle horn; (see ring-ring)
on your left: A vocal signal provided to a pedestrian by a cyclist, indicating that the cyclist would soon be passing on the left.
thank you: A vocal signal provided to a cyclist by a pedestrian, out of courtesy, indicating that the pedestrian has received signals from the cyclist such as ring-ring, honk-honk, and on your left
And that’s it! Super easy!
Like any language, speaking Bicycle depends on two-way communication. For instance, a cyclist could use the correct grammar — ring-ring and on your left — correctly, but if the pedestrian they are trying to communicate doesn’t speak Bicycle, or they have their noise-cancelling earbuds in place, blasting Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, a crash and serious injury could occur.
This morning I was on my daily commute to work and decided to take the scenic route, to lengthen the ride in order to get more exercise, and as I pedaled across the Taylor Dock, as is typical on this popular bike-pedestrian pathway, I came across a number of folks enjoying an early stroll.
As I approached the first cluster of folks, who were taking up the entire pathway, I said to them in Bicycle, “ring-ring. on the left!”
To my delight, as I passed by, the pedestrians spoke back to me in Bicycle, “Thanks for the ring-ring!”
Of course, as I approached the next gaggle of walkers, using my best Bicycle to communicate with them, the woman I came closest to as I passed seemed to go into a little panic, and she certainly didn’t speak any Bicycle back to me.
I’d love to see a Learn to Speak Bicycle public education campaign in Bellingham, because Bicycle is so easy to learn and it so mutually beneficial for cyclists and pedestrians.