Like most things a bike bell is something that can be overdone or used with not so nice intentions. Be polite, be respectful, don’t try and frighten the … out of someone who doesn’t know you’re there yet by sounding your bell then zooming past them as close as possible to show off how fast, and therefore fit, you are on your bike. Sound a gentle warning 5 or so metres away, while reducing your speed. Wait for a response – turning of the head, moving over to the side – this applies to both walkers and other cyclists. At this point if there is no response another ding follow by “Passing on your right” in a clear voice would be appropriate. Please give people space especially if they have small children or dogs with them.
Bells are worthwhile on cycle trails and in mountain bike parks, in particular on blind tight corners that are two way. These are corners that you can not see around and where you have the potential to crash into someone coming the other way if you don’t know they are there. Signage is good on a lot of these corners and the kids love it when they see a bell sign like the one on the tree in this photo.