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What are the Different Hand Signals for Bicyclists?

Bicyclists use hand signals to communicate their intentions on the road, ensuring safety for all. These gestures indicate turns, stops, and hazards. For example, an extended left arm signals a left turn. Understanding these signals fosters harmony between cyclists and motorists. Curious about the full range of signals? Discover how each one keeps riders safe in our comprehensive guide. What signal surprises you most?
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

In the world of recreational bicycling, communication is vital. Other cyclists and motorists cannot use mental telepathy to anticipate a rider's intentions. Instead, bicyclists must rely on a uniform code of hand signals to communicate turns, stops and reversals. Failure to use proper hand signals can result in collisions among riders and accidents with motorists sharing the road.

One of the most vital hand signals is the stop command. If the leader of a cycling pack decides to stop suddenly, the remaining riders may not have sufficient time to avoid a pile-up. The stop signal is performed by extending the left arm slightly away from the body and pointing the palm towards the back. The rider should maintain control with the other hand and only stop the hand signals to apply the brake.

Bicyclists must always be aware of the surrounding traffic and signal appropriately.
Bicyclists must always be aware of the surrounding traffic and signal appropriately.

Some bicyclists may anticipate the stop signal with one that means slow down or caution. This hand signal is performed by extending the left arm straight out from the body and bending it from the elbow at a downward 90º angle. It should look like an upside-down L. From this position, it should be easy for the cyclist to drop into the full stop hand signal when necessary. Caution hand signals can alert other riders to potential road hazards without the need for a full stop.

Hand signals provide a way for cyclists to tell other riders and drivers what they are planning to do next, such as stop or turn.
Hand signals provide a way for cyclists to tell other riders and drivers what they are planning to do next, such as stop or turn.

Other important hand signals involve turning and other changes in direction. A right turn is indicated by extending the left arm straight out, much like the caution signal, but with the lower arm bent at an upward 90º angle. It should look like the rider is forming an L. Again, control should be maintained with the other hand and the signal should be removed just before committing the actual turn.

A left turn is indicated by extending the left arm straight from the body without bending it. In essence, the rider is pointing towards the direction he intends to turn. Since a left turn, or right turn in some countries, may involve crossing against traffic, great care should be exercised when executing it. Some cyclists may encounter trouble if they fail to maintain their hand signals long enough or use ambiguous hand positions. All hand signals should be performed in a deliberate and definite manner to avoid any confusion among fellow riders or motorists.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular WikiMotors contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular WikiMotors contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon757

That's true for motorcycles, but if I'm correct in Europe is other way around for the bicycles.

anon746

Ride with the flow is correct. Your friend appears to be applying the accepted procedure for walkers - on a road with no sidewalk (US)(pavement,UK)

Dayton

As a regular bicycle commuter, I have a bit of insight.

There are two answers, really. First, is that the law is on your side. She's exposing herself to a traffic ticket in addition to the danger of riding the wrong way.

Second, there's this consideration: riding with the flow of traffic actually gives the cars more time to see her. Ask her, which is more important--seeing the cars or them seeing you?

anon688

I rode with a friend once who insisted on riding facing into traffic, I tried to explain to her the proper procedure was to ride WITH the flow of traffic. Her response was, "well, If someone is going to hit me I want to see it coming." It just makes sense to me, and it *feels* safer, to ride with the flow, but I couldn't think of the reasoning or rationale to convince her, her mind was made up. Needless to say I no longer bike with this friend. What explanation could I have used to try to change her opinion.

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    • Bicyclists must always be aware of the surrounding traffic and signal appropriately.
      By: corepics
      Bicyclists must always be aware of the surrounding traffic and signal appropriately.
    • Hand signals provide a way for cyclists to tell other riders and drivers what they are planning to do next, such as stop or turn.
      By: .shock
      Hand signals provide a way for cyclists to tell other riders and drivers what they are planning to do next, such as stop or turn.