It is past time for Fairfax County and other metro area jurisdictions to require bells on bicycles ridden on public bike routes and streets.
New York City, for example, has long required them as an essential safety feature for effectively alerting other riders, especially when passing. The state of Virginia's rules on bike safety and equipment don't mention bells; neither do ordinances in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. The District of Columbia did so until 2013 and then rescinded its requirement, without asking the public, saying it is “unduly burdensome when bicyclists can similarly alert others to their presence by using their own voice.”
But that reasoning is faulty and outdated. The sharp, high-pitched ring of a bike bell is more audible, plus it is a multilingual alert, a good feature to consider especially in this language-diverse area. Importantly, more and more people walk and run the biking/hiking trails and streets wearing headsets linked to cell phones and piped music. Often, they can’t hear a spoken alert but can likely hear a bike bell. Many bikes in this area had bells back through the 1980s and 1990s, but I’ve noticed hardly anyone seems to use them nowadays.
They're not expensive: I've checked Amazon, eBay and Dick's Sporting Goods prices, and most are $4 to $15. Thank you.