Bike Safety: Signals for Cyclists

When riding with others, it is important (like, it could save a flat tire or a crash!) to know what is going on around the group.  Other writers have discussed the usefulness of having a rearview mirror so that you can see what is coming up from behind.

It is also important to know what is ahead, so all the riders need to know their ride leaders.  Ride leaders use different signals to convey information.  Some point to obstacles to avoid; others point in the direction riders need to move to avoid the obstacles.  Both are acceptable, and provide important information, BUT ONLY IF THE RIDERS IMMEDIATELY BEHIND CONTINUE TO PASS THE SIGNAL(S) BACK TO THE LAST RIDER!! 

1. Everyone knows the most common hand signals, and some samples appear below:

 Signal  Meaning
 Left arm straight out  Left turn or lane change to the left
 Left arm out, with elbow bent up  Right turn or lane change to the right
 Left arm out, forearm pointing down, palm facing back  Slowing or stopping

2. There are also a couple of alternatives:

 Signal  Meaning
 Right arm straight out  Right turn or lane change to the right
 Either leg off the pedal  Slowing or stopping

3. And, of course, there are special signals:

 Signal  Meaning
 Pointing down (either side)  Road hazard on that side (glass, pothole, catch basin, etc.)
 Arm out, fingers pointing ahead, either arm  Group is approaching a hazard, or a hazard is approaching the group
 Arm out, forearm down, palm facing back, swinging  Railroad or trolley tracks

Some of us who ride together a lot have even developed a special signal for when we are approaching a gaggle of geese, a common hazard along Marine Drive! (FYI, a group of geese is a gaggle when it is on the ground; airborne, it would be a skein.)

Main safety tips here are:

  1. Riders, know your ride leader.
  2. Ride leaders, know your riders!

Dave McQuery, Candidate for Member at Large