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Gerra bell - an encounter on the Nidderdale Greenway

Shared path sign on Nidd viaduct

I went for a Sunday morning ride today, using the Nidderdale Greenway to get out to Ripley, and beyond into the countryside.

It was a warm morning, with a luminous sky, and not too much breeze. I was looking forward to getting up onto Dallow Moor. All was right with the world. Nothing could go wrong. Or so I thought.

Shortly after crossing over the railway, where the Greenway runs along the edge of Bilton, I saw a man ahead of me. He looked about 60 years old, and he was tall and solidly built. He was walking two dogs - a Boxer, and a smaller dog. 

I rang my bell, fairly quietly - sometimes I keep my finger on the bell as I ring it, to dampen the noise a little, so as not to make the other person or people on the path jump. The Bilton Boxer Walker didn't hear, so I did the same thing again. 

The next step would have been for me to say, 'coming up behind you on a bike', but it wasn't necessary, because the Bilton Boxer Walker must have heard the noise of the second bell ring. In any case, he looked back, saw me, and moved to the side of the path with his two dogs. As I went past slowly, I said, 'thank you.' 

After I'd gone past, I heard him growling something under his breath. I didn't immediately understand, but after a second, I realised it sounded like 'gerra bell.' I stopped, turned my head and shoulders back to look at him, and asked, 'What did you say to me?'

'Gerra fuckin' bell,' came the response, growled louder than before.

'I've got a bell, and I did ring it', I said. (Ding!) 'I'm doing my best to be considerate. There's no need to be so angry.'

The Bilton Boxer Walker didn't reply, he just humphed, and moved off into the field with his dogs.

I can only speculate about the chemical reactions going on inside his body, to make him so angry, with so little cause. 

Often in such situations, you think afterwards, 'this is what I should have done or said.' The killer line comes into your head too late. In this case, much like Kylie Minogue, I wouldn't change a thing.

Gerra bell

I've come across this before. It's a complaint made by people who hate other people riding bikes. It's not about the bell, they're just using it as a stick to beat you with, and if it wasn't the bell, it would be something else.

Nevertheless, I make sure I've got a bell on my bike. If I didn't have one, I could justifiably say, 'I don't have to have a bell, it's not the law. The important thing is that I'm considerate, and I alert you to my presence. I can do that by back-pedalling to make a noise with the chain, or with my voice.'

That would be quite reasonable, but of course, you'd never persuade someone like the Bilton Boxer Walker of that in a passing encounter, where you don't get to sit them down with an overhead projector and power-point presentation. It's easier to have a bell, then the person grumbling that you haven't got a bell is demonstrably wrong, and should feel foolish.

Sharing the path

The Nidderdale Greenway is for everyone. Walkers? Yes. People walking their dogs? Yes. People cycling? Yes. Electric bikes, wheelchairs, children's scooters, yes, yes, yes. (Motorbikes, and motor scooters, no).

It's a shared use path, and if you're going to use it, you have to be prepared to share it in a civilised way. You can't go onto it fizzing with anger and resentment, looking for an argument. What's more, you have to show a bit of tolerance when people don't follow the rules exactly as you'd like them to. 

There's no point in hating 'cyclists' or 'dog-walkers'. People have personalities, friends, relatives, interests, and hobbies. People are multi-dimensional, and shouldn't be defined and judged on the basis of how they're travelling at a given moment, or the type of animal accompanying them. Try hating 'rail passengers', and it becomes obvious how silly it is.

Reasons to be cheerful

I didn't let the Bilton Boxer Walker spoil my ride. He's given me something to write about. That spontaneous rage and nastiness is more of a problem for him than it is for me.

On my way back along the path later in the morning, I passed lots of people riding bikes. It's the summer holidays, and it's a Sunday, so I suppose it's peak time, but it was fantastic to see the Greenway so well-used by children, families, and everyone else. There were lots of smiles and friendly interactions.

The time to despair may well be coming up the (dismantled railway) tracks, but it is not yet.

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Beryl Burton cycleway

Beryl Burton cycleway

The Beryl Burton cycleway is a traffic-free cycle and foot path between Bilton Village Farm and the Nidd at High Bridge, Knaresborough. Read aboutthe Beryl Burton cycleway.

Nidderdale Greenway

Nidderdale Greenway

The Nidderdale Greenway is a walking and cycling route that goes along an old railway line between Harrogate and Ripley. It has been extended along Hollybank Lane, and it could eventually go as far as Pateley Bridge, and along another branch to Ripon. Read about the Nidderdale Greenway.

Signs on the Nidderdale Greenway Nidd viaductNidderdale Greenway goes through woods

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