(cover photo from cyclingweekly.com)
When you learn how to cross the road safely as a little kid or drive a car as a teenager, the hardest part is learning how to correctly anticipate what other road users are going to do. The easiest environment to accomplish that in would be when all road users would be providing each other insights in their upcoming actions.
As cyclists we can play a very big role in helping other road users (including our fellow cyclists!) understand our plan of action by using hand signals. Most common used hand signals, that every cyclist should know and use, are:
To signal a left turn, fully extend your left arm out to your side. Make this signal approximately 100 feet before you turn, to alert others and so that you can get your hands back onto your bike as you turn.
To signal a right turn, fully extend your right arm out to your side. Make this signal approximately 100 feet before you turn, to alert others and so that you can get your hands back onto your bike as you turn.
The most common hand signal used by cyclists is the “stop.” This signal is necessary because – unlike motor vehicles – most bikes don’t have brake lights. To indicate that you are stopping or slowing down, simply extend your left arm out, and bend your arm down at a 90-degree angle, with your hand open.
Optional call: “Stopping!”
Some others that can be useful at times are
With your arm outstretched, palm-down, and slightly behind you so cyclists behind you get a clear view of your hand, move your hand up and down at the wrist to indicate that you’re about to slow. Use this indication when you’re confident that you’re going to be pulling the brakes in order to significantly slow your speed.
Optional call: “Slowing!”
POTHOLE OR HAZARD ON ROAD
If you are approaching a hazard in the road, for example a pothole, manhole cover or drain cover, outstretch your arm on the side that the upcoming hazard will pass your bike and point to the floor. This will sometimes be accompanied by a circling motion – if there’s time.
Optional call: “Hole!”
GRAVEL / DEBRIS
For specific hazards where the effect will be a potentially slippery surface, take your outstretched hand, palm down and wave at the floor. This can also be used for a broken or unconsolidated road surface.
Optional call: “Gravel!/Loose!/Ice!/etc.”
Other things you can do as a cyclist to improve safe cycling with others is the use of specific calls. Some commonly used ones are:
CLEAR LEFT / RIGHT
Used when attempting to join the flow of traffic from a junction to indicate that the road is clear and the group can begin to move through the junction without stopping but, crucially, after slowing to check for traffic. As a result, this call should only be used when the junction offers a clear line of sight in both directions.
ON YOUR LEFT / RIGHT
For use between cyclists, this warns a rider in front of you where you are in relation to them on approach. For example, calling “on the right” as you approach a slower cyclist from their right flank, and vice versa.
Warns of a car approaching from up the road, usually actively travelling towards the group. This call is used when the road is narrower than a dual-direction single carriageway with enough space for vehicles to pass each other without avoiding action.
Warns of a car approaching from the rear of the group, which means it’s also the only call which originates from the rear of the group.
Before you start a group ride, it is always beneficial to repeat these to ensure there is a common understanding of these signs and calls and getting everyone on the same page.
Remember, you are the easiest person to influence, and working on how you show up yourself is likely to have a far greater impact on others than anything else you can ever do. If you can understand how your own behaviors can and are contributing to the behaviors of others we can make a true change in road safety for everyone!