What kind of cyclist indicator are you?

Cyclists are encouraged to indicate when they’re about to turn or change lanes so that other motorists know what they’re doing and to keep traffic flowing smoothly.

However, we generally don’t have lights or blinkers so we have to go with a more rudimentary tool: the arm.

Different cyclists have interpreted the indicator in different ways, some quirkier than others.

So sit up, engage your core and pick the right signal for you.

Sticking the arm out

A classic. People stick their arm out in varying fashions – some straight, some with pointed fingers, some at an angle.

Sheepishly putting the arm out

Like sticking your arm out but with a little less gusto. A go-to for the timid or the tired.

The pointer

If The Fonz were a cyclist, this would be his signature. It comes in two guises: sticking the arm out and pointing and a cheeky point from the hip.

Thumbs up guy

Everybody’s favourite. They’ll put their arm out, make their move and give the motorist a thumbs up once they’ve cleared.

Jazz hands!

Cyclists with rhythm will opt for a jazz hand. If you’re not familiar, this action involves putting the arm out (sheepishly or with feeling), splaying the fingers in a star shape and shaking the hand, tambourine-style.

The head tilter

It’s a good idea to give precise indications when you can, but sometimes you just have to use your arms to brake and/or steer. This cyclist takes it to a new level, literally going head first.

The not-at-all

A tricky one to read, this cyclist might veer off the road unannounced, leaving you to figure out what on earth they’re doing.

Can you get indicators for bikes?

Yes you can. Many indicators started life on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, but you’ll need to shell out a fair wad of cash to get them.

WingLights, as seen on Dragon’s Den, fit into the hollows on the ends of many handlebars. When you turn, you bop on the direction you want to go in and the light comes on. It’ll switch off automatically after 45 seconds to save battery. Better hope you’re not trapped in that box junction for too long!

You can get a pair of fixed lights for £26.99 and a pair of magnetic lights for £37.99. If you want something a little cheaper, there’s a range of indicator lights and brake lights on Amazon.

Those who want to keep toasty in the winter can opt for indicator gloves. Zackees do cushy-looking bike gloves which let road users know when you’re about to make a turn. They’re available on Amazon for a rather hefty £84.99.

Sometimes it pays to use your head when it comes to road safety. The Lumos bike helmet has white LED lights in the front and red LEDs in the back which are activated by a remote which you stick on your handlebars. It even senses when you’re slowing down and puts on backlights for the benefit of road users behind you.

Hopefully you won’t need to get this helmet replaced in a hurry as it costs a substantial £159.99. It does come in five colours though, so there’s that.

Sending mixed (hand) signals

Of course, cyclists do far more than turning corners or changing lane. Over time we’ve established methods of keeping other road users in the know with hand signals.

Some of these are in the Highway Code, others not so much. How many do you recognise and, better yet, how many do you actually use on the road?

Slowing down

A right inconvenience for cyclists is that we don’t have brake lights to let others know we’re slowing down, which can cause problems when a seemingly phantom pedestrian appears on a crossing.

To deal with this, stretch your arm out, palm facing down and slightly behind you, and wave it up and down.

Stopping

Sometimes you have to stop altogether. In this case you stick your hand straight above your head.

It’s worth shouting ‘stopping!’ as well if you have to brake abruptly.

Come through

Group cycling is all about swift action and subtlety, perfectly reflected in the come through hand gesture.

Invite fellow cyclists through by flicking your elbow away from you. Easing off the pedals will help cement the message.

Oncoming hazard

London cyclists will be familiar with all kinds of road hazards. As you come up to the hazard, take the arm on the side of the hazard and point it across your back in the direction that cyclists would need to move in to dodge it.

Potholes are slightly different. On the approach to one of the blighters, stretch your arm out and point towards it. Circle your hand if you can.

 Thanks

We all know that there’s a touch of animosity between cyclists and motorists, so let’s try and keep things sweet on the road.

If a driver or another cyclist gives way to you, raise your hand to about chest level as a mark of thanks. It might also help to take a leaf from thumbs up guy – there’s a reason why they’re so popular.

So, which indicator are you? Have you spotted any of the others when you’ve been out cycling or are there others we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Join 10,221 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

14 Responses to What kind of cyclist indicator are you?

  1. John W 23/10/2017 at 2:14 pm #

    Your examples missed using the opposite hand (stretched out and upturned at the elbow) to indicate turning right.

    • MJ Ray 25/10/2017 at 8:09 pm #

      That’s an old USA signal isn’t it? It can be confused with a European stopping signal, so isn’t a great idea.

      • John W 26/10/2017 at 3:02 pm #

        Yes, it’s used in the USA (where I used to live) and even Canada, and would make sense to use it with vehicles in the same lane and immediately to one’s left. However, using the right hand outstretched and upturned at the elbow would make sense in the UK when vehicles are in the same lane and immediately to one’s right … but only if vehicular drivers knew what such a sign means! It would help drivers (and cyclists) to know what specific hand signals mean and should be used if such signals were identified in the UK’s Highway Code.

      • Malcolm Newton 27/10/2017 at 11:20 am #

        N
        o it’s British, the stopping or slowing down signal is the right arm is moved in an up and down motion to indicate slowing or stopping.

  2. David 23/10/2017 at 2:46 pm #

    I have a battery powered indicator which fits on my wrist.It has a motion sensor,so when I raise my hand to turn it automatically flashes.It turns off after my hand returns to the handlebar.I have had one of them for about 5 years and has never let me down.I bought it on Ebay,but have not seen it on there for a long time. It cost around £12,00,so not expensive and really do a great job.

    • Anna 27/10/2017 at 11:27 am #

      David, any info on the brand so I could Google and find similar? Sounds like just what I need, thanks

      • David 27/10/2017 at 1:20 pm #

        It was made for company called ‘Safe turn’ in Australia.
        I haven’t been able to find them anywhere now Anna,but I wish you luck in finding one!

  3. Jerry 24/10/2017 at 11:04 am #

    The bottom hand signs should only be used on track or closed road as drivers behind won’t understand that you’ll be moving across to overtake a hazzard. Use arm out to go round parked cars and obstacles then vehicle drivers will know what you’ll be doing.

  4. MJ Ray 25/10/2017 at 8:07 pm #

    What you label as sheepishly can be an alternative form for moving out slightly to avoid an obstruction.

    Circling instead of pointing in the pothole signal can mean ice or gravel.

  5. Christian Murley 27/10/2017 at 11:00 am #

    I think the point, move then thumbs up might go some way to alleviating a little (tiny) bit of the animosity around at the moment. Especially if someone drops back/waits for you to move.

    Good manners are nice and it never hurts to say thanks!

  6. Su 27/10/2017 at 1:15 pm #

    I also have a flat hand forward wave to tell oncoming traffic to SLOW DOWN – use a nod as i return in from primary position to permit passing, and allow a flat hand wave of thanks to those who have actually held back from passing me

  7. Commuterjohn 27/10/2017 at 1:33 pm #

    A straight forward left or right signal that people can see and understand is the best and it allows you to get your hand back on the brakes where you need it to be.
    The old hand signals pre indicators i dont think many people know now.
    Bus drivers used to have a white reflective band on their right jacket sleeve to make the signal more obvious.

  8. becca 27/10/2017 at 1:49 pm #

    You missed mine.. which is some kind of gun fingers. I move my wrist like a flashing indicator with u arm right out straight until I’ve made the turn. Can’t miss it then 🙂
    The other signals I have no idea about. I would normally just tell other cyclists od there is an obstruction

  9. Zac 30/10/2017 at 1:22 pm #

    First few times I saw people pointing down I thought they were stretching. Then I realised it’s a thing. As an indication signal it can only be seen by fellow cyclists who are right up your Rs and it’s generally a bit late by then. It also looks affected.
    Stick your arm out, point, wave, whatever: just make it obvious.

Leave a Reply