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Common Bike Hand Signals That Bicyclists Should Know

Normally it would be required to take a driving test before getting a driver’s license. This test is to ascertain that you fully understand the rules of the road, including the importance of road signals. In other words, you must have understood the vitality of informing other drivers of your intentions when changing lanes or turning.

In the United States, bicyclists use certain signals to inform one another of their intentions. While the authorities rarely enforce these signals, using them is very important as it prevents unsavory occurrences like crashes. Overall, there are three basic bike hand signals that every bicyclist should know to prevent bike crashes.

Understanding the Importance of Bike Hand Signals

Multiple reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, “close to 1,000 bicyclists die in crashes annually. Besides these, more than 130,000 bicyclists get injured in road crashes.” In 2015, nearly 467,000 bicyclists got injured in road accidents, many of which were caused by a misunderstanding between cyclists and motorists.

Considering this number makes it easy to understand why bike hand signals are so important. Essentially, these signals help to reduce the risks of a bicyclist getting hit by a car.

These hand signals do not eliminate the risks of being hit by a vehicle while you are on a bike. Nevertheless, when you can signal your intentions before you carry them out, the possibility of that happening reduces.

Aside from motorists, hand signals are also crucial in ensuring the safety of other bicyclists on the road. Whether you intend to slow down, stop, or make a U-turn, you help other riders prepare when you warn them. An example is seen in an area with many bicyclists; you can use hand signals to warn them of your intentions.

The Top Three Basic Bike Hand Signals to Know

First, if you intend to turn, stop, or slow down, ensure you signal at about 100 feet before doing so. With this, you will give motorists and cyclists enough time to react and put their hands back on the handlebars. Below are the basic bike hand signals you should know:

Left Turn

Ensure you are at least one hundred feet away from other drivers to signal a left turn. Then, extend your left arm to your side fully and put it back on the handlebars before turning.

Right Turn

You can signal a right turn in two ways; simply extending your right arm to your side is the most frequently used. However, some states in the United States prohibit this type of signal. The other option is to extend your left arm to the side and turn it 90 degrees.

Nevertheless, whether you signal with your left or right arm, the 100 feet rule still applies. That is, signal about a hundred feet and leave your arm extended for about three seconds before turning.


Most cyclists use the “stop” hand signal to signal a stop. This is because most bikes do not have brake lights, unlike vehicles. Extend your left arm and bend it 90 degrees with your palm open for this signal.


These are the three basic hand signals that every bicyclist and even motorist should know. Meanwhile, signaling late is as dangerous as not signaling at all. “Therefore, ensure you keep the 100-feet and three-second rule – signal at a hundred feet and keep your arm extended for three seconds.” says Henry E. Reaves III of Reaves Law Firm, PLLC.

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