Biking Skills- Communication

Whether you are out for a relaxing ride on a secluded bike path or you’re commuting by bicycle on a congested downtown roadway, chances are you will encounter other road users.

When biking near or around other bicyclists, motorists, or pedestrians, it is essential to utilize proper communication. Communication allows for a safer, less stressful ride for all parties involved. Basic communication methods are simple and straightforward, and implementation is easy with a little practice.

Left Turn Hand Signal

Left Turn Hand Signal

As you utilize these communication techniques you will find that nerve-racking rides are few and far between! And BONUS, if and when you drive a car, knowing these techniques will make your drive easier, as you will understand better when bicyclists are communicating with you.

  • Be Predictable: Be as predictable as possible by relaying your intentions through your body language and hand signals. Riding predictably will ensure other road-users around you are aware of your potential next movements and can maneuver around you accordingly.
  • Body Positioning: Keep in mind that the position of your body is communicating your intentions and  next moves to the road-users around you. Turning your body and making eye contact with pedestrians, cars and other bicyclists lets others around you know that you are beginning to make a move and your path will change.

    Right Turn Hand Signal

    Right Turn Hand Signal

  • Stopping: Use the stopping signal to alert bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians.  
  • Hand Signals: Be confident and use strong hand signals when turning, changing lanes, slowing, and stopping.
  • Changing Lanes: Look behind you, make eye contact, and use a strong hand signal.
  • Right of Way: Eye contact matters. Looking at the driver will help you determine their intentions, and often helps you to feel safe when taking the right-of-way.
  • Verbal or Audible Communication: There are many conflicting opinions on what type of audible communication to use when passing other bicyclists and pedestrians. Please take these methods as a suggestion and use your own experience and discretion to determine what is appropriate for you in various situations. Many people use “on your left” when passing, but often times this phrase is hard to hear and understand. “Passing” is also another verbal warning commonly used. Bells are a great tool, because the noise is often loud and sharp enough for road-users to hear from a further distance (even if they’re wearing headphones). When using any audible direction, make sure you use the warning early enough and are traveling at a slow enough speed so that you can react to any action the other road-user may take.
  • Biking around Pedestrians: If possible, make eye contact with pedestrians. Use a bell to signal passing and say “thanks” if they move for you. When yielding to them in a crosswalk, be clear that you are stopping for them by putting your foot down.

No matter what type of road or trail you are on, when you are biking around other road-users it is imperative to understand that you are sharing the space. Be safe and respectful road-users and your ride is bound to be enjoyable!


Comments (1)

  1. Ryan Permalink  | Aug 29, 2014 11:03am

    I am baffled as to why seasoned cyclists still get these basic signals wrong. Perhaps photos from behind the cyclist on pages like this would be more helpful so your readers can imagine their orientation. It seems like a simple concept but something is not sinking in. Also, the “going straight” signal is rarely used, unfortunately.