Lesson 3 - 10 cycling hand signals you need to know

Learn these 10 basic cycling hand signals to keep you — and those around you — safe out on the road.

The hand signal you use for stopping will most likely depend on the situation. If you’re only riding with one or two other cyclists, a closed fist behind the back is probably sufficient. On a large group ride, raising your hand above your head may be a more appropriate option because it is more visible to cyclists several positions behind.

Keep in mind that when a sudden stop is required, you’ll likely have both hands on the brake levers. In this situation, calling out “stop” over your shoulder is your next best option.

When you’re riding with other cyclists, it’s always a good idea to alert those behind you when your speed begins to decrease. This can help to keep others following closely from accidently riding into your wheel.

To signal that you plan to begin slowing, extend your arm with palm down and move your hand up and down. While signaling, it’s always a good idea to call “slowing” if possible.

Whether you’re entering an adjacent lane of traffic or making a left turn at a traffic signal or stop sign, you’ll need to indicate to others on the road that you intend to change your direction of travel. To signal a left turn, extend your left arm away from your body to shoulder height, parallel to the road.

Just as you would signal for a left turn, a right turn should be signaled when you intend to change direction and move to the right.

In a group, extending your right arm away from your body to shoulder height and pointing in the direction of the turn is usually acceptable. When you’re riding solo, make your signal more visible to motorists by using an alternate signal, extending your left arm away from your body at a 90-degree angle.

An unseen pothole has the potential to cause an accident. When in a group, point out a pothole or other obstacle that shouldn’t be ridden over by extending your arm on the side of the obstruction and pointing to it. If possible, alert others behind you by calling out.

Dirt, gravel, sand or other loose debris on the road that might cause you to lose traction should be signaled to all trailing cyclists.

Though there are two variations to this signal, you should always extend your arm on the side of the loose debris. With your arm extended, you can either wiggle your fingers or wave your hand side to side, palm down.

While a bit tricky to signal, you’ll need to alert cyclists behind you of a parked car or an open car door. To signal an approaching hazard, place one arm (use the arm that is on the same side as the hazard) behind your back and point in the direction those behind you need to move. For example, if there is a parked car on the right side of the road blocking the roadway, place your right hand behind your back and point to the left.

If you’d rather not get too complicated with your signals, train tracks or cattle guards can be pointed to just as you would to signal a pothole.

The one downside to not having a specific signal is that if the train tracks often run in the same direction you’re traveling, making it easy for wheel to slip into the groove if you aren’t aware of what you’re trying to avoid. To signal for train tracks, extend your arm, point, and move your finger in an back-and-forth motion horizontally.

This signal is most commonly used in a pace line during a group ride or race. When you find yourself on the front of the pack and have either completed your pull or are too tired to continue maintaining the front position, a flick of the elbow will alert the rider behind you that it is their turn to pull through and relieve you of your duties.

The road can be a stressful place. While it’s easy to get mad when an inconsiderate motorist creates a dangerous situation, it’s just as easy to forget to acknowledge others when you’ve been given the right of way. Waving to other motorists and your fellow cyclists on the roadway helps to create a less hostile environment and positively promote the sport of cycling. It’s also a good way to remind yourself to have fun and be friendly when sharing the road with others.

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