Bicycle Hand Signals


There’s nothing less exciting to the new cyclist than bike safety. This, however, doesn’t make it any less important. Today, we’ll be covering hand signals for bicyclists. In the US, it’s required by law to use bike hand signals even though they are rarely enforced.

Whether you are a daily bike commuter, or fancy a casual bike ride down the street, it’s vital to understand the proper bicycle hand signals to indicate your intent to other road users.

Why are bicycle hand signals important?

A bicycle is a vehicle. This fact is underappreciated by most; car drivers as well as bicyclists. Using and understanding bicycle hand signals is compulsory for all bicyclists. 

Road traffic laws also apply to bicycles and must also be followed by all cyclists. If you’re going to ride on public roads, it’s vital to communicate your intentions to other road users. 

Real talk! Here are some grim facts from 2019 in the US alone. 

  1. 843 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2019.
  2. Deaths among bicyclists aged 20 or older have tripled since 1975.
  3. The most serious injuries are to the head; please always wear a helmet.
  4. 62% of cyclists killed in 2019 were not wearing helmets.
  5. Bicyclist deaths peaked around 6pm to 9pm. (21% of total deaths.) Consider getting front and rear bike lights (or a set).
  6. 35% of bicyclist deaths occurred at intersections. Please use extreme caution when approaching intersections.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

If using proper bike hand signals can reduce accidents by even 1%, all bicyclists should know and use them to communicate clearly on public roads. 

These hand signals are also important for car drivers too. So, if you can, please share this article with loved ones to raise awareness and improve bicycle safety on roads. 

Common bicycle hand signals in the USA

The three most important bicycle hand signals to remember are those for turning left or right and for signaling stop. 

Historically, bicycle hand signals in the US were all indicated using your left hand, but now you can signal a right turn with your right hand.

Things to remember before using bicycle hand signals

  1. Begin signaling at least 100 feet before the turn, junction or intersection.
  2. Hold your hand signal for at least 3 seconds.
  3. Turn around (for a second or two) and establish eye contact with the person behind you.

Turning left

To signal a left turn, extend your left arm fully to your left with your five fingers pointing left. You can also just point left with only one finger, while your left arm fully extended.

Turning right

There are actually two biking hand signals for turning right.

Common right turn bike hand signal

Extend your right arm fully to your right with your five fingers pointing right. You may also point right with your right index finger only. 

This is the clearest and most intuitive right turn signal for most automobile drivers. However, this option isn’t permitted in all US states. Regardless, most drivers will naturally understand what your signal means.

NOTE: Check your local bike laws regarding bicycle signaling for clarity on bike turn signals 

Alternative right turn bike hand signal

Make a right angle with your left arm with your arm up and palm open to indicate a right turn. 

Stop/slow down bicycle hand signal

To signal a stop, make another right angle with your left arm with your arm straight down and palm facing backwards.

How to use bicycle hand signals

For a clear visual representation of all bicycle hand signals, watch this short clip:

How to use bicycle hand signals

For a printable bike hand signal guide, use this from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Bike Law Network/Bicycle Accident Lawyers

Find out if you can get a DUI on a bicycle.

Hopefully you never get into a bike accident or get seriously injured, but just in case you do, you can contact the bike law network. They are a network of independent lawyers and law firms who love cycling. They’ll help you out with any legal advice on bike-related accidents.  

Final Note

That’s it for today! You can now make our roads a little safer by using bicycle hand signals correctly. Armed with this, you should hopefully always be able to get home in one piece. Ride safe!

Cheers and thanks for reading! A loose bike chain is also a safety hazard, learn how to tighten yours.


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