Will New York City Pedestrians Move for Bike Bells? We Find Out.

The video above portrays the technique of YouTube poster MCOTOMOSHIROI, who has discovered how to motivate slow walkers to get out of his way. As this is relevant to our interests, we decided to see if his method was as successful on the streets of Manhattan as it was in Japan. The "MCOTOMOSHIROI Approach" involves only a bike bell and some disdain toward humanity. We chose the most annoying bell we could find, and set out to become a social irritant.

We first tried it out yesterday on the Broadway corridor between 14th and 23rd, where the Eataly crowd mulls about during the lunch hour. Initially, pedestrians were actually pretty speedy! There were no frustrating clumps of people walking hopelessly slow, and no need to play Pedestrian Pinball. It was almost disappointing.

Luckily, the Union Square market was open, and the pace slowed to a crawl. We dinged the bell loudly, and nobody moved. As we moved up Broadway, the same thing happened -- not a single person got out of our way. It made sense; these were New Yorkers, and damned if New Yorkers are going to move out of the way for anybody. Additionally, there was the "crazy" factor -- we realize we looked a little odd, dinging a bike bell in public, and pedestrians were employing the well-practiced skill of actively ignoring us.

bell.JPG
Ari Lipsitz
The tourist force field.
Next, we decided to go to Times Square and Columbus Circle, where tourists were pretty much guaranteed to be walking about. (On the subway steps, we dinged the bell, and one guy stopped short in front of us just to be a tool.) Times Square was moving at an all-time land speed record for Slowest Average Walking Speed, so the "MCOTOMOSHIROI Approach" could be a salvation.

It turns out that American tourists were the most impressionable. Of the 10 or so times we dinged the bell per block, at least two people got out of the way. But mostly they would look behind them; see us, bike bell in hand; and stare confusedly across the street at the guy in the Elmo suit. European tourists were too lost in their shopping and their maps to notice us. (It's probably a good thing, because they're stimulating our economy when we can't do it ourselves.)

Results: Overall, the "MCOTOMOSHIROI Approach" isn't a total success. But imagine if it were! Picture hundreds of hurried New Yorkers, lattes in one hand, bike bells in the other. We'd have to pass "no dinging" laws to combat the noise.

Related: The 15 Worst Kinds of Pedestrians in New York City

How to Deal With Slow Walkers [Cynical-C]

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1 comments
qrt145
qrt145

I can tell you that pedestrians in New York never get out of the way when I ring my bike bell while riding my bike on the bike lane where pedestrians are not supposed to be!

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