Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Apple #249: Hand Signals for Bicycling

I brought my bike up from the basement last week and I've been riding it in the evenings when it hasn't been too hot. I can't remember the last time I rode a bike, and let me tell you, it feels wonderful.

I love the speed of it, the way the wind rushes past my face. At the same time, I'm going slowly enough that I can look at houses and people and all sorts of interesting things as I ride by. In that way, biking has all the benefits of walking, in that I feel like I'm physically part of the neighborhoods I'm moving through, not like when I'm in a car and securely wrapped in my metal bubble. But I'm moving faster than walking, so I can cover more territory. But mostly it just feels good.

You can ride a bike just about anywhere.
This woman is riding her bike -- in Laos.
(Photo by Stuart, posted at World 66)

I've been really wishing I could remember hand signals. Sometimes there are cars behind me, and I don't want anyone to have to guess about anything. I remember that if you want to turn in one direction, you stick your hand straight out. Another direction, you hold your shoulder straight out but raise your forearm perpendicularly in the air. But is that for a right turn or a left turn? Because I couldn't remember, I was just pointing vigorously in the direction I meant to go.

Turns out, that weird signal is out of fashion. You could still use it if you wanted to, but apparently most people are like me in that they can't remember which way that's supposed to indicate.

LEFT TURN -- hold out your arm straight to the left.
(Diagram from Dr. James Watrous)

RIGHT TURN -- hold out your arm straight to the right.
This one is much more obvious than the other, so I'm only going to post this one.
(Diagram from Dr. James Watrous)

STOP -- hold out your left arm and drop forearm toward the ground.
I can't imagine using this signal very often. Mainly because I need both hands to work the hand brakes.
(Diagram from Dr. James Watrous)

Some other bicycling safety tips:
  • Ride as far to the right in your lane as possible. Sometimes potholes or parked cars make it too dangerous or difficult to hug the curb, but try to keep to the right as far as you can.
  • If you're going to make a left turn, do a head check first. This acts as a kind of signal to traffic that you mean to move out into the road. When the traffic is clear, move into the left turn lane (if there is one), and once you're in that lane, keep to right of that lane as you make your turn.

(Diagram from Bike Miami Valley)

  • If there is no left turn lane, wait at the right side of the right lane for traffic to clear, and then cross the right lane and make your left turn.
  • If somebody told you to ride your bike against traffic, they gave you bad advice. Always ride with the flow of traffic.

This is the Prime Minister of Japan, riding a bicycle.
He doesn't look too confident about it, does he?
Though the kids seem to be loving it.
(Photo from What's up around the Prime Minister)

Kidshealth, Bike Safety
James Allen Watrous, Ph.D., Bicycling Hand Signals
Bike Miami Valley, Bicycle Safety: Hand Signals
Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State, Illinois Bicycle Rules of the Road

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