In order to be road legal, bikes are supposed to have a bell. Many people remove them, thinking that the tinny tinkle of a bell is useless in traffic - no driver will ever hear it. And they are right - but wrong when it comes to riding on shared paths. Although more and more pedestrians are wandering around like dazed deaf-mutes thanks to the iPods, some are still capable of hearing a bicycle bell as I come flying up behind them, looking for a way past.
In the 10 second clip below, I come up behind a trio of numpties - with dogs - and a cyclist with no bell. She tries to find a way through the gaggle of moronitude, but finds herself stuck until I start rattling away on the bell on my handlebars. As soon as they hear that magic sound, the gagglers part like the Red Sea did for Moses, and both of us cycle through.
You can of course substitute a bell for a polite but loud, "Passing on your right", but the bell seems to work better. I've had to put up with being told that I am gay for hanging onto the bell, but I don't care. It could be painted pink and covered in flowers for all I care - if it works, I am keeping it.
There are of course those that turn their iPods up so loudly, I can hear the music from 10 feet away as I approach. With those critters, I think a tazer is the appropriate solution.