Cycling Hand Signals Everyone Should Know

2021-05-11
Cycling Hand Signals
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More and more people are taking cycling as a means of transport every day. Unlike motor vehicles, bikes don’t require a permit or license to be ridden. It’s thus important to know the basics about what traffic regulations you must follow, as well as the basic hand signals you will be using, in order to ride around the city safely. Yes indeed – cyclists have a silent body-based language to communicate with other cyclists, motor vehicles and pedestrians circulating on roads and streets.

If you don’t know these signals, don’t worry – here at Santafixie we’ll describe them in detail. Knowing cycling hand signals will help you forever, as they will make each ride much safer, given that you’ll warn others about your movements in advance. Drivers will thank you, as they can get a little nervous when being behind a cyclist.

Essential Hand Signals for Cyclists

Keep reading to learn what signals to make when you’re on the bike to communicate non-verbally with other vehicles and cyclists on the road.

1. Slowing down

To let others know you’re going to slow down, extend your arm with your palm facing downwards, and move your hand quickly upwards and downwards. It’s essential to do it ahead of a junction or a stop sign. Focus on anticipating if you intend to slow down, in order that others have time to react and can hit the brakes progressively.

cycling hand signal slowing down

2. Turning right or left

One of the most important and widely-used signals by all cyclists. This signal will make any road user aware of your intentions, as a turning light would on a motor vehicle. To signal what side you’ll turn to, extend your arm outwards – the left one if you’re turning left, and the right one if you’re turning right. You can also swing your arm up and down to make it more visible.

cycling hand signal turning right or left

3. Stopping

As other signals, this one is also essential to know, especially when riding in a group, to alert others of your intention and avoid crashing. Always signal your intention to stop in advance so that bikes behind you can react on time and also stop correctly.

To let others know about it, raise your left or right hand over your head, palm facing onwards. It’s advisable to move your hand slightly, to make it more evident.

cycling hand signal stopping

4. Indicating an object on the road

When riding with other cyclists, it may be difficult to see what’s ahead on the road. That’s why the ones riding in front of the rest must alert their partners about any object or obstacle that may be on the road. Once they will have alerted, the ones behind will also signal the same, as if it were a domino effect, until everyone is aware of the obstacle to increase safety and avoid unpleasant surprises.

To alert about a strange object on the road, extend your arm and point to the object itself, while cycling slightly away from the obstacle to make it easier to drive around it.

cycling hand signal indicating an object on the road

5. Signaling holes on the road

Holes are a trend on most interurban roads, and as soon as you cross the town or city limit, you should see them and alert your partners about them – especially if they are deep as a well.

To make sure everyone can ride over the hole or avoid it correctly, extend your arm sidewards and swing your hand up and down, repeatedly. Alternative, you can extend your elbows out, while handling the handlebars, as if you were a bird flapping its wings.

cycling hand signal signaling holes on the road

6. Dirty road

Dirt, sand, gravel or oil spillages on the road are dangers not as visible as objects, but can be equally or even more dangerous, as they can cause traction loss and mean falling down. To make others aware of dirt on the road, extend your arm downwards, facepalm facing down, and move your facepalm back and forth, as if you were dusting furniture. WIth this signal, your fellow cyclists will be able to slow down and grab their handlebars properly, in order to avoid the peril.

cycling hand signal dirty road

7. Dodging an obstacle

You surely have found some wrongly-parked car in the middle of the road, or a cyclist going slower than you that you need overtake. To alert your group about an obstacle ahead, so that they can dodge it properly, shake your arm behind your back and point at what side you intend to dodge it.

cycling hand signal dodging an obstacle

8. Helping cars overtake

When you’re on the bike and a car is behind you, the driver may have low visibility and hesitate whether they should take over or stay behind you. To make things easier for them, it’s important that you stay as far away from the center of the road as possible, and if no vehicle is coming, extend your left arm and move it back and forth to let them know they can overtake you without risking another vehicle coming across.

Thanks to this simple movement, other vehicles will be able to circulate more easily, and you’ll avoid a line of cars and vans forming behind you.

cycling hand signal helping cars overtake

These signals are basic so that you can ride your bike with total ease, so get out and put them in practice. Other public road users will thank you, and your safety on the bike will improve drastically.

All Comments

  • Aren’t some of these on the wrong side? The slowing down one (1) and helping cars overtake (8) I would do with my right arm.

    Two Wheels 2021-07-30 6:03 pm Reply
  • I’m a little confused here.
    Should you not use your right hand for 1 and 8? Or have I been doing it wrong for the last 60 years?

    John Suckling 2021-07-31 8:36 am Reply
  • hand turn signals should always be hand vertical palm forwards, maybe fingers splayed and best wearing yellow back gloves. the movement should be a brisk and assertive extension to make clear you are going to move, so stay out of the way and dont overtake. and held as long as is safe.
    the pointy finger of the model is ambiguous confusing and easily missed, bad advice.
    and all the other club roadie type signals, are you kidding? for commuters? please!

    bob cannell 2021-08-04 10:01 pm Reply

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