11 Hand Signals for Safe Biking

As urban cyclists, we know all too well we’re not the only ones on the road.

There are these big metal machines called “cars” that can really eff up your day. Just as cars have blinkers to signal their next move, you need to do the same. Since we don’t have as many flashing lights as our motorized counter-parts (though we have some), we’ve outlined the hand signals that’ll help you stay safe and share the road.

1- Stop

Facing your palm to traffic behind you with your fingers pointed to the ground is the universal “I’m stopping soon!” move. Rumor has it this is how cavemen signaled they were slowing their roll.  

2- Left

Extend the left arm straight to the side. If you weren’t on a bike, we might think you were trying to start a kick line. But on a bike, or in a car with a broken blinker, this means you’re turning left.  

3- Right

right

The other side of that Rockettes’ style kick line? Reaching out for a side hug? Nope. Just signaling that you’re turning right.

4- Alternate right

You’re biking along eating a sandwich with your right hand and need to signal you’re turning. What do you do? Use this alternate signal for a right turn! Yes, it's your left hand raised in the air to signal a right turn. Maybe you’re not biking hands free, but happen to be right next to a row of parked cars. Using your left hand might be easier to see. (And for a right turn - you guessed it, switch up the hand and arm!)

 

5- Caution hazard

Point towards the hazard (like a pothole, rock or some gunk in the road), and circle your hand, as though you’re drawing a circle around whatever you’re calling attention to. This move is super appreciated when riding in groups with bikers behind you (and bikers are always behind you, aren't they, you Speed Demon you?)  

6- Slowing down

The signal for stopping (#1) is often enough to get the point across that you’re slowing down. However, you may come across this signal on group rides. To make it happen, you put your hand down to hip height as though you were petting a dog running along side of you. People behind you will know to tippy tap the brakes.  

7- !Caution! Obstacle in path

Another hand signal you’re more likely to see when rolling down the street with a cyclist crew, this one is designed to let your companions know which direction to move safely out of the way of an obstacle (think broken down bus, a tree branch or a flash mob). The direction the hand is pointing behind the rider’s back lets the group know which direction to move; in this picture, she’s telling folks to move to the right.

8- "Get in line!" or single file

On a narrow or congested street, bikers have the ability to take up less space. Unless you’re taking the whole lane to make a point, the front rider in a group can direct everyone to make a line. Put your hand on your head in a higher than usual face palm gesture.

Let's be honest, this one is probably less well known. So probably good to assist it with an audible "get in line, ya punks!"  

9- Bike polo hands

Who knew you could play polo on your bike? Well, no one - but Bostonians found a way to take an old school game and make it hip on two wheels. If you find yourself watching or playing bike polo, these signs will help you out.

10- Mixed signals

Bikey Face offers alternative meanings to the lazy or poorly formed bike hand signals you might see around. Are you turning or waving hello? Born to hand jive bikers! Now that you’re up to speed on hand signals, you can gesture your way to safety… well, you’ll be able to one-up Zoolander and turn left (safely). And finally, let's not forget our friends on two wheels - with motors. 

11- Motorcyclists have nifty hand signals too

This is really more like hand signals 11 through 27, and some aren't exactly non-motor relevant. But even if you’re riding a sweet custom bicycle, sans motor, these hand signals may come in handy. Our favorite move to try out? Pat the top of your head to signal to others in the know that there’s a cop. Other cyclists probably won't know what you're doing, but you can always pretend you were going so damn fast as to risk a speeding ticket.

And if you ever do get a speeding ticket on a non-motorized bike? Frame that sucker.