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Hand signals: why are people mess 'em up?

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Hand signals: why are people mess 'em up?

Old 07-24-12, 11:43 AM
  #101  
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Pervading gangland culture? I bet many cyclists want to avoid getting shot at by some confused bangroso who thought their turn signal was actually the sing of a rival gang. You have to be careful with wild animals around.
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Old 07-24-12, 11:54 AM
  #102  
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I signal right arm out for a right turn and left arm out for a left turn.

  • (Right) arm up and down - "I intend to slow down or stop" (very rarely if ever used...)
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Old 07-24-12, 12:13 PM
  #103  
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come on guys, we fell for it and got hooked. The OP cast out the bait with the making fun of people not using the same signal at he or she did and we believed it was going tobe a discussion rather than a defence of the ops opinion. People aren't messing up hand signals as proved by the posters indicating that the signals made are acceptable at least in their area. The Op simply doesn't like how other people signal and doesn't waht to change, as if anyone was trying to make them change. Maybe they just want a thread they haven't killed on their own? At least indicated by the tag line under the OPS name.
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Old 07-24-12, 08:25 PM
  #104  
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The other day I signalled for a right turn with my right arm. I went around the corner and the signal didn't go off. I bet I rode three blocks before I realized I still had my signal arm out there! How embarassing.
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Old 07-24-12, 08:52 PM
  #105  
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Originally Posted by tntyz View Post
The other day I signalled for a right turn with my right arm. I went around the corner and the signal didn't go off. I bet I rode three blocks before I realized I still had my signal arm out there! How embarassing.
Don't you just feel like an idiot when that happens?
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Old 07-24-12, 11:36 PM
  #106  
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Originally Posted by JanMM View Post
Don't you just feel like an idiot when that happens?
One gets the same feeling reading this thread. Clearly reason is a problem for this crew.
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Old 07-25-12, 08:07 AM
  #107  
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Minor "point", but I don't point. I hold my had out flat, as is illustrated in most guides to hand signals. Pointing is usually a gesture directing attention toward something rather than indicating intention.

Cyclists points to the left. Driver to passenger in approaching car, "What's that biker pointing at?" Passenger, "Oh, must be that pretty girl, check it!". "budump budump" ...."When did they put a speed bump here?"
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Old 07-25-12, 09:22 AM
  #108  
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+1, I go for fingers outstretched flat, palm facing behind me and vertical, almost like I'm trying to hold them back.
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Old 07-25-12, 05:32 PM
  #109  
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Three lefts make a right. Problem solved.
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Old 07-25-12, 09:25 PM
  #110  
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I have lived in Ontario, Canada for my entire life and I have never, ever seen anyone sign a stop by pointing their hand up in the air. I'm not sure where in the province the OP was driving, but obviously he was having trouble interpreting cyclists' hand signals.

In fact, most people in this province don't bother signalling their intents to stop or slow down, so that makes me equally suspicious about his claims.

In Ontario, as in most of Canada, extending the right arm straight out to signal a right turn is perfectly legal. This is taught in drivers' education and during bicycle safety courses.
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Old 07-27-12, 10:31 AM
  #111  
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
???? Explained in the third post. What so sensible about the "left hand up" indicating a right turn?

You point to the left for a left turn. It makes some sense to point to the right for a right turn. Do you really think people have a problem understanding that?


The right hand pointing right" is a standard signal for cyclists. The laws in many states say so.

Bizarre.
The main point of using the left hand is that it is more visible to the drivers behind you. Drivers sitting in their cars are of course offset to the inside of their side of the lane (regardless of where you are). As a cyclist you are suppose to stay as far to the outside of the road/lane as is possible, safely. By using the left hand to signal you are in effect putting your signaling hand into the middle of the lane where is in effect in the drivers face and easily seen.

Using right hand gestures in for - for example when in the drops, potentially puts your body between the driver and your gesture unless you fully extend it is more likely to not get noticed than a left handed signal. Also most people are right handed and point with their hands which could be misconstrued as a signal. And on the same note, most being right handed will have greater one handed control of the turn with that hand on the handlebars.

I admit I'm one of the cyclists that still uses proper signals round here it seems. And I use the left hand ones.

Of course I've driven as living for a good chunk of my life, and always had to take defensive driving classes every couple years.

(yeah I know I ride a Superbe, and use hand signals, ring a bell when passing pedestrians.....I'm a geezer in a 41 year old body.



<edit/add> And perhaps drivers would learn what the signals mean if everyone used the same turn signals every time. Perhaps the reason people wave or seem to get confused with signals is that we aren't consistent with the signals if we signal at all.

Last edited by conradpdx; 07-27-12 at 11:05 AM.
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Old 07-27-12, 11:33 AM
  #112  
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Originally Posted by alhedges View Post
When I had driver's ed in the 80's, we never went over hand signals.
I taught driver's ed in the early 70's. Everybody learned on a car that still had a standard transmission but we didn't do anything with hand signals. That was 4 decades ago. Had the OP even been born yet?

I'm thinking that, like hand signals, turn signal lights are on the verge of becoming passe'. In the next stage, in order to get their attention, we'll have a way of texting everybody in the immediate area.
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Old 07-27-12, 12:04 PM
  #113  
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Originally Posted by conradpdx View Post
The main point of using the left hand is that it is more visible to the drivers behind you.
The hand signals were developed to be used by drivers of cars, not cyclists. The "main point" of using the left hand was because it's not really practical to use the right hand in a car.

You could argue that there happens to be an advantage for cyclists using their left hand to signal right turns but that is not the "main point". That advantage, though, is possibly off-set by the unfamiliarity/unusualness/oddity of pointing up to indicate a right turn.

Originally Posted by conradpdx View Post
Drivers sitting in their cars are of course offset to the inside of their side of the lane (regardless of where you are). As a cyclist you are suppose to stay as far to the outside of the road/lane as is possible, safely. By using the left hand to signal you are in effect putting your signaling hand into the middle of the lane where is in effect in the drivers face and easily seen.
If you are riding is this position, signalling a right turn isn't really necessary or very useful (ignoring simple courtesy).

Signaling a left turn is much more useful. Signalling a right turn from the left lane/side is much more useful (and using the right hand for that wouldn't be any worse than using the left hand and it might be better).

Originally Posted by conradpdx View Post
Using right hand gestures in for - for example when in the drops, potentially puts your body between the driver and your gesture unless you fully extend it is more likely to not get noticed than a left handed signal. Also most people are right handed and point with their hands which could be misconstrued as a signal. And on the same note, most being right handed will have greater one handed control of the turn with that hand on the handlebars.
If people can't control their bikes with their left hand, they probably should reconsider whether they should be cycling at all. Anyway, it seems somewhat easier to make right turns with the right hand free than with the left hand free (and, in the US, it allows the left hand to be on the front brake).

Cyclists use their left hands to point to things on their left side. Drivers often raise their left hands to wave hello. Why isn't that a problem?

Originally Posted by conradpdx View Post
<edit/add> And perhaps drivers would learn what the signals mean if everyone used the same turn signals every time. Perhaps the reason people wave or seem to get confused with signals is that we aren't consistent with the signals if we signal at all.
If you really believed this specious argument, you'd suggest getting rid of the weird "pointing to the sky" right turn signal!

Some drivers appear to be confused by the right turn signal they are taught in driver education classes (probably because it is never really used by drivers to signal and because it closely matches waving, which is something that drivers are likely much more familiar with). They don't really appear to ever be confused by the right-hand right-turn signal.

Last edited by njkayaker; 07-27-12 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 07-27-12, 10:26 PM
  #114  
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I'm willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that the hand signals were developed before bicycles or cars were invented. I'd assume that they go back to horse and carriage days.

As for the right hand turn signal being weird, so be it. Even if they the drivers don't know what it means, at least you know you have gotten their attention, and that is 80% of the battle when on the road with motorists.

Perhaps they (motorists) are waving not to say hi but to say "thanks for the heads up" (ok perhaps a stretch). But I know I compliments from about 1/3 of the pedestrians for using my bell to signal my approach when I overtake on the multiuse trails. I also know I've been cut off while driving unexpectedly from bikes where the rider doesn't signal. For most of them it looks they are having problems keeping control of their fixie.

Which brings me to my next point.

I'd agree that someone that can't control their bike with the left hand probably shouldn't be riding to begin with. But lacking skill or ability doesn't stop most people from trying or doing things that they probably outta not do anyway.

I still think that hand signals are important, but they should be used constantly and consistently. Commuter and utility cyclists are the most effected since they tend to play in urban traffic more than most the other riders, and communication between all road users is necessary for safe and effective traffic.

I do think it is sad that many people don't know this stuff. I know I had to learn it in Drivers Ed in the mid 80's in the Detroit suburbs. Perhaps I felt (and still feel this way) because I was also a cyclist in perhaps one of the most least bike friendly area ever created at the time.
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Old 07-28-12, 07:05 AM
  #115  
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I've noticed the middle finger is the one hand signal that doesnt get messed up.
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Old 07-28-12, 07:52 AM
  #116  
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I seldom use a right hand signal, too many motorists either thought I was waving to them (bent left arm), or thought that I was gesturing "after you" (straight right arm), either way, I was still getting left hooked more often than if I used no signal at all. The only hand signals I regularly use are for left turns and slowing/stopping (bent downward left arm/spread open hand), which have much better results/less confusion with U.S motorists.
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Old 07-28-12, 09:46 AM
  #117  
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Originally Posted by conradpdx View Post
As for the right hand turn signal being weird, so be it. Even if they the drivers don't know what it means, at least you know you have gotten their attention...
Yes, this is precisely the crux of the divide. Some people value communicating, and others don't.

Of course, communicating is hard, requires consideration and patience of other road users, and promotes empathy.

Simply being satisfied "to get drivers' attention" is much easier, essentially selfish, and generally leads to lack of understanding and resentment. After all, I can get your attention by shining bright lights in your eyes, blasting my music, or driving the biggest, meanest, SUV I can find, but those don't make the road safer or more civilized.

So, while you're free to scoff at the fact that 99.9% of road users-- cars, motorcycles, RVs, trucks, and snowmobiles-- are expected to know, recognize, and employ when necessary, the 90º left arm gesture to signal a right turn, hopefully you'll forgive me for thinking there is a smarter way to share the road.

Last edited by chaadster; 07-28-12 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 07-28-12, 10:58 AM
  #118  
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Yes, this is precisely the crux of the divide. Some people value communicating, and others don't.


So, while you're free to scoff at the fact that 99.9% of road users-- cars, motorcycles, RVs, trucks, and snowmobiles-- are expected to know, recognize, and employ when necessary, the 90º left arm gesture to signal a right turn, hopefully you'll forgive me for thinking there is a smarter way to share the road.
Oh my goodness! Is this thread still going? Much like the Black Knight, it just won't fall down when it's dead!!

O.K. all you 'proper left arm signals are the only good communication' experts, let me ask you this question. If I'm driving a British Sports car equiped with right hand drive and my lucas electrical system goes haywire taking out my directionals, how do I signal my turns? I certainly don't want to confuse other drivers by using my right arm, or is it really O.K. to use the right arm in this instance? If it is O.K. in this instance, then it's most definatley O.K. when cycling. No, this is not a far fetched example. I happen to belong to a relatively large British Sports Car club and many of us own right hand drive vehicles.

Last edited by cranky old dude; 07-28-12 at 11:15 AM.
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Old 07-28-12, 11:00 AM
  #119  
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
So, while you're free to scoff at the fact that 99.9% of road users-- cars, motorcycles, RVs, trucks, and snowmobiles-- are expected to know, recognize, and employ when necessary, the 90º left arm gesture to signal a right turn, hopefully you'll forgive me for thinking there is a smarter way to share the road.
You have been provided several examples of states that allow both types of signals. The final authority on all things vehicle related is the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances. They state the following with regard to hand turn signals:

11-606.Method of giving hand-and-arm signals
All signals herein required given by hand and arm shall be given from the left side of the vehicle in the following manner and such signals shall indicate as follows:

Left turn.Hand and arm extended horizontally.
Right turn.Hand and arm extended upward.
Stop or decrease speed.Hand and arm extended downward.

Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, a person operating a bicycle may give a right turn signal by extending the right hand and arm horizontally and to the right side of the bicycle.
This is the basis for state laws permitting right turns allowing for the use of the right hand while riding a bicycle. You use them in a car for obvious reasons and you can't use them on a motorcycle because of the controls but for a bicycle they make perfect sense and, in my experience, motorist, bicyclist and pedestrians aren't confused by them. Additionally, in my experience, using the right hand for right turn signals is less awkward for making a right turn.

As for people actually knowing that a raised left hand means a right turn, here's what your state LAB has to say about that

According to a study by Drury & Pietraszewski, the bent left arm signal was correctly perceived by 65% of following drivers, but the straight right arm signal was perceived correctly by 78%.
What's really sad about the Drury study is that it was done in 1979 when far more people may have been exposed to cars that didn't have turn signals.
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Old 07-28-12, 11:50 AM
  #120  
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Originally Posted by chaadster
So, while you're free to scoff at the fact that 99.9% of road users-- cars, motorcycles, RVs, trucks, and snowmobiles-- are expected to know, recognize, and employ when necessary, the 90º left arm gesture to signal a right turn...
Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
You have been provided several examples of states that allow both types of signals. The final authority on all things vehicle related is the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances. They state the following with regard to hand turn signals:
You're not understanding what I've been saying.

It doesn't matter what the law provides for a bicyclist to signal, but rather what licensed drivers are "expected to know, recognize, and employ when necessary" in order to get a license. I don't believe there is a single state that does not make standard hand signals part of the motor vehicle licensing requirement.

Similarly, few, if any, motorists are trained at all on laws that govern bicycle operation on the roads aside from a cursory "share the road" statement as a prereq to licensing.

So, if you're expecting to communicate your intentions as clearly as possible, why would you ignore what 99.9% of all road users are "expected to know, recognize, and employ"?

The answers to that question given here, that "right-hand right" indicating is more intuitive, less awkward, unambiguous, and more sensible, while having an appealing, child-like simplicity, just don't stand up to critical consideration unless one takes the position that 100 years (or thereabouts) of motorway user tradition and practice matters less than what a few, uninformed cyclists think.

I'm sorry, but while I love cycling and have done it for about 35 years, I fail to see any need or compelling reason to adopt a different right-hand turn signal that contravenes the American roadway standard.
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Old 07-28-12, 11:56 AM
  #121  
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
I'm sorry, but while I love cycling and have done it for about 35 years, I fail to see any need or compelling reason to adopt a different right-hand turn signal that contravenes the American roadway standard.
Well if the right arm signal winning that 1979 survey doesn't to it for you then by all means stick with the Hi Mom turn signal.

If you're really upset by the right arm signal then you seem like the kinda guy with enough time on his hands to go fight City Hall (state legislature) and get those blasted right arm signal allowances stricken from the vehicle code books.
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Old 07-28-12, 11:58 AM
  #122  
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Originally Posted by cranky old dude View Post
Oh my goodness! Is this thread still going? Much like the Black Knight, it just won't fall down when it's dead!!

O.K. all you 'proper left arm signals are the only good communication' experts, let me ask you this question. If I'm driving a British Sports car equiped with right hand drive and my lucas electrical system goes haywire taking out my directionals, how do I signal my turns? I certainly don't want to confuse other drivers by using my right arm, or is it really O.K. to use the right arm in this instance? If it is O.K. in this instance, then it's most definatley O.K. when cycling. No, this is not a far fetched example. I happen to belong to a relatively large British Sports Car club and many of us own right hand drive vehicles.
Exceptions do not invalidate the rules, so to answer your question more directly, if you cannot give legal turn indications, you should exit the road immediately and not operate your old jalopy on public roads until you've repaired-- preferably replaced-- the poorly conceived and more poorly executed Lucas electrical system or properly switched the driver's controls to the left side of the vehicle.

My other advice would be to buy a proper, vintage, German sports car.
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Old 07-28-12, 12:12 PM
  #123  
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
Well if the right arm signal winning that 1979 survey doesn't to it for you then by all means stick with the Hi Mom turn signal.

If you're really upset by the right arm signal then you seem like the kinda guy with enough time on his hands to go fight City Hall (state legislature) and get those blasted right arm signal allowances stricken from the vehicle code books.
Did you read the study?
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Old 07-28-12, 12:22 PM
  #124  
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Originally Posted by cranky old dude View Post
O.K. all you 'proper left arm signals are the only good communication' experts, let me ask you this question.
Nobody can believe that "left arm signals are the only good communication" seriously. People who are stating something like that are trolls. Asking them questions will only feed them.

Remember, that we are talking about US roads. The biggest difference between the US and European rules of the road is that European ones actually exist, while US ones practically don't exist. For example, European vehicle law consists of a large number of carefully formulated rules and a high number of various pictographic road signs that have to be remembered and understood by the driver in order to legally qualify for the driver license. In such a system, it is indeed possible to introduce a some formal rule that might be slightly counter-intuitive, yet understood by everyone on the road, like, for example, signalling right turn with your left hand.

In place of all that US has a dumbed-down picturesque "Driver's handbook" (you don't expect Americans to study the Vehicle Code, do you?) and five or six pictographic road signs that people expected to recognize. Everything else is supposed to be written in large English letters on a board installed on the side of the road; with humorously abbreviated grammar to make sure that people will have a chance to read it all before they drive by. Learning anything even slightly counter-intuitive is completely out of question in USA. Everybody is "too cool for school" to do anything like that.

Specifically for that reason nobody in USA will understand a right turn signal given with the left hand. "Right with left" is too counter-intuitive. If you want to signal a right turn, you have to point your right hand to the right. This is the only signal 99% of US drivers can possibly perceive as a right-turn signal. The standard "left hand bent at right angle pointing up" will only be recognized by about 0.5% of traffic law pundits (if you saw a poll that says otherwise, that poll is simply flawed and/or lying). In other words, when you are riding a bicycle, point your right arm to the right before the right turn. You can also move your hand in circles to convey the intention of "turning" to the drivers behind you. The more expressive pantomime your introduce into your signal, the better chance you have to be understood. Actually, using both of your hands combined with swaying motions of the entire body would be the best. But that's too dangerous on a bicycle.

In short, when you are in Europe, follow the formal local laws. When you are in USA, use expressive pantomime and improvise. That's the only chance you'll be understood here.

P.S. When you are driving a closed car, where using your right hand to signal the right turn is useless, there's simply no way to signal a right turn. Sticking your left hand out the window and pointing up will not help: only few people in USA know what it means, as I said above. The best option for a car would be to make a moderately-sized plastic sign that says in English "TURNING RIGHT" and sticking it out your driver's window every time yo need to signal a right turn.

Last edited by AndreyT; 07-28-12 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 07-28-12, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
It started a few weeks ago when I was on a tour over in Ontario, Canada. The guides were using their right arms outstretched (as in a pointing gesture) off to the right to signal a right turn. Then, I started noticing a couple of riders in my very home town doing that "I'm-pointing-to-the-right-with-my-right-hand-and-that-means-I'm-turning-right" gesture, and was really vexed.
Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Yes, this is precisely the crux of the divide. Some people value communicating, and others don't.
Here's the part that I don't understand:

In your original post you gave two examples of cyclists signaling and indicated that you understood their intentions. In other words, they communicated. Now it sounds to me that you are saying their signal shouldn't count.

So do you value their communication or do you find it "vexing"?
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